A World's Fascination with Race

Friday, January 30, 2009

While thinking about YouTube and the bounty of videos focused on race, a thought came to mind: You cannot criticize a man for what he does not know, but you can criticize him for not knowing any better. I'm not sure if that was a personal thought or a line dropped into my mind by God, but either way, it pretty much sums up my opinion of the YouTubers that troll various videos on race and pounce on opportunities to share bigoted views. As a result of watching plenty of these videos and noticing the comments, I thought it best to never make a video dedicated to the topic of race and thereby avoid the hassle of deleting unnecessary and bigoted comments that may come flying my way. However, there is a part of me that is tempted to create a video dedicated to the "Youtube Race Trolls" and their incessant obsession with making racist comments on plenty of videos. They don't even realize nor care how their comments affect the video's viewers, and appear to operate out of some sort of insecurity or personal vulnerability every time they make a racist remark. (The verdict is still out on that decision :).)

Which brings me back to my original statement: You cannot criticize a man for what he does not know, but you can criticize him for not knowing any better. What I mean by this statement is the fact that people who live in their own universes of bigoted bliss appear to indulge their prejudices with enough fodder to excuse themselves from the obvious necessities of knowledge and awareness of the world and its history. I personally think it is a waste of my time to spend a second educating a man on what he never bothered to learn about the realities of their "other" (whatever that "other" may be - a woman, an African-American, an Asian, Muslim, etc.), but I would take a moment to shake my head and think that is a shame that he doesn't know any better than to live in a culturally-invented bubble of untruths and babble. I understand that prior to the age of television and the internet, it was very easy to not know any better and not have as much access to knowledge that would burst stereotypes and expose people to the humanity of all people, but I clearly underestimated the willingness of a large segment of the world's population that is bent on maintaining bigoted views and is determined (regardless of how much scientific or sociological studies state to the contrary) to carry out incorrect thoughts for the purposes of having some sense of comfort that they have indeed figured the world out, and have nailed it down to some sort of mathematical formula of how the world works, and how society is "truly structured."

However, I will now take a moment to express a lot of faith in the idea that the world is becoming more open-minded to difference and the "other" as nations find themselves increasingly dependent on one another in a intense context of globalization, attempting to understand the "other's" history and its complexity, rather than box it into a cookie-cutter white/black standard that never fits into our gray realities. Let's all therefore take a moment to challenge our belief systems, and take some time to uncover subsumed pyramids of knowledge that we knew existed, but never bothered to explore.

The New and Cool Black Male - The Obama Standard?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

For a while, the "thug" look has been the in-thing for many men across America, particularly black men, and it has crossed over states and nations (thanks to the music industry), encouraging men of all races to embody the idea that the "thug look" is in, thereby supposedly gaining respect from others (or perhaps, invoke fear) as well as the digits from the ladies - if you can pull off the "thug look" with at least an adequate amount of authenticity. I've never been into the look - but that could easily be due to the fact that I grew up as a very sheltered girl in the suburbs of Long Island, and never knew anybody personally that even cared to embody the "thug look" -I only saw it on television for the most part and found it to be the opposite extreme of what I normally found attractive - the semi-preppy look (think "Theo" from the Cosby Show or Dwayne Wayne from "A Different World"). Furthermore, since I've always been attracted to smart guys, I struggled with equating "thuggy" with "smart" - there has always been a disconnect between being smart and being a thug that the media had no problem perpetuating within the music industry as well as on daytime/nighttime television.

Now that Obama is President of the United States, will he become the new role model for black men, embodying a new "cool standard" that black men will adhere to and as a result create a new cool standard across the nation and the world? Will a college degree and a quick wit make certain men rise above the rest when it comes to winning a woman's affection? According to CNN, black men have already started adopting Obama's hairstyle (originally called the "Caesar" in black barbershops, and has recently been relabeled "the Obama"). I wonder to what degree will this Obama fascination extend beyond a haircut style, and encourage young men across America and the world to finally forfeit this "thug" standard, and trade it in for "suave, cool, and smart." Many black men already embody this "suave, cool and smart" standard (think Morris Chestnut's character in "Two Can Play That Game") - perhaps Obama's presence in the media will finally push the thuggy standard into the shadows of the hip hop industry and allow the new "cool" to rise up to the pedestal.

Today is the Day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

It is 12am, 1/20/09, and today is the day that this nation will see its first black President. The point about Obama becoming the "first black President" has been repeated over and over again (CNN can't get enough), but come on now - this is huge! I feel like I was born at the right time in history - and this is the very day that so many people have waited to see their entire lives...

Some people wonder why the world is so obsessed with Obama, but I don't think it is as much of an obsession with the person, Barack Obama, as it is with the significance of what he represents - societal advancement, both in this country and abroad. People have always been struck by "underdog" stories - the stories of people who went against the odds and fought their way to victory. And some of the most classic underdog stories in this country focus on a minority, woman (or a minority woman) who was able to break a glass ceiling that was so firmly held in place for centuries upon centuries. I think it is incredibly fair to say that the title of American President is the ultimate glass ceiling in this nation!

America is a relatively young nation that has, within a few centuries, witnessed both black slavery and a black president - and it is very important to recognize the work that has been accomplished by women and men of all races to push civil rights in the direction of today's victory. The extremes of slavery and the first black president are connected by the pain, bloodshed, tears, and heartache that it took to get to this day.

The moment when Obama officially accepts the title of presidency is going to be overwhelming for millions of people - myself included! When I watch him today, I will also hear the voice of Dr. King, the words of Malcolm X, the memories of videos I watched of men and women fighting and boycotting for their dignity... it is a combination of various thoughts that can push anyone to run for a Kleenex and think about where we are today as a nation.

I think it is important for every person to now take steps to help make President Obama's vision possible - particularly in the area of community advancement. Barack is only one man - but together, we can all make his vision a reality and make a difference in the lives of the people around us. That could mean becoming a Big Brother or Sister, a volunteer at a nearby homeless shelter, participate in volunteer missions through your church, and the list goes on. Idealist.org offers plenty of great nonprofit organizations in your community that you can join and help others in need. I do not believe anybody is too busy to lend a helping hand. And I do not believe anyone is too busy or too preoccupied to stop, take a moment to check their thoughts, and look at a man or woman that you previously considered as "the other" as "the same" now, and realize that all of us are equal in the eyes of God, and we need to treat each person with the respect and dignity that they deserve.

Who Qualifies as America's Prominent Black Leader?

During my undergrad years at Harvard College, a non-black student jokingly referenced a controversy involving Al Sharpton and asked me, "How do you feel about your leader?" Despite his attempt to make a joke, I found the question a somewhat ignorant and failed attempt to make fun of a man considered by society (and clearly this student) as a prominent leader of black America. I have no issues with Al Sharpton - if I met him in real life, I hope that I would find him to be a pleasant individual. My central issue is with the fact that a prominent black leader in civil rights has not really existed since Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. And I've never considered Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton as their equivalents.

If this guy on campus asked me the same question today - "How do you feel about your leader?," I would actually respond with, "Oh, I love President Obama! Thanks for asking! And by the way - he is your leader too." It is as simple as that - I truly believe that Obama is the answer to my hope for another Dr. King. And I'm excited that he will not only qualify as a beautiful representative of black leadership, but a magnificent example of American leadership in the world today.

What does the Inauguration Mean to You?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Obama is about to come into office during one of the most troubling and difficult times this country has ever faced, and I can't help but view his situation as an impending soap opera full of hope as well as well as controversial subplots of story lines which may either stick or fall by the wayside. People seem to be literally sitting on the edge of their seats, aching to participate in some form or fashion in this very unique and momentous occasion - the first Black president of the United States. I've noticed quite a bit of talk on Facebook about who is running off to Washington DC for some inaugural party or event, as well as those who are going not to witness anything in particular, but to be a part of the madness that I'm sure will take place the entire day. Either way, the whole thing should be quite thrilling...

What Does it Mean to Live "Race-Free"?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I've coined the term "race-free" for a particular purpose - to highlight the fact that no one should be so focused or so conscious of their race or ethnicity in diverse contexts to the point where their consciousness of it hinders their success and ability to fluidly move among people on a day to day basis. Growing up, I never cared to view the world through a "race" lens - I saw people for who they were and paid attention to how they behaved and interacted with different people. However, as I have navigated my adult life and travelled and lived around the country and different parts of the world, I have been astounded by how many people racialize the "worlds" in which they live to the point where they discriminate against the "other" or do not feel comfortable around the "other" ("other" meaning another racial/ethnic/cultural group that is separate from one's own group affiliation). It is so unfortunate that so many people still live this way, despite all of the research and reports out there that emphasize the fact that the concept of race is actually a fictitious notion designed for not-so-benevolent societal purposes.

It is very much possible to live life without thinking about race or being so obsessed with it that it disadvantages you in your daily navigations through various ethnic and cultural networks. However, I do wonder if America will come to a point where it will wise up to this idea of living "race-free" and acknowledge its tension, discard it as ridiculous, and see each individual as a separate entity onto themselves, worthy of equal acknowledgement and value. Perhaps it is a utopian idea, but a girl can dream, can't she? :)