Every now and then someone will tell me a story, when suddenly, it sounds like nails on a chalkboard. They’ll say, “And then there was this big black guy.”
“Big and black??” I’ll say if I’m feeling cheeky. “Oh no.”
The story usually falls apart from there.
This isn’t to say there aren’t imposing and intimidating black men, as there are imposing and intimidating men of every race. Some rappers purposely strike an intimidating pose to show how tough and strong they are. That intimidation, though, also has to do with perception.
In a New York Times piece about white female rappers, Touré writes:
For many Americans, black male rappers are entrancing because they give off a sense of black masculine power — that sense of strength, ego and menace that derives from being part of the street — or because of the seductive display of black male cool.
In that passage, he writes as much about rappers as the public’s view of them: Menacing. Seductive.
The same is true for the person who tells the story with “the big black guy.” That description often says more about the storyteller than the person in the story.
Continue reading 'The Big Black Guy'»
Harry Reid’s “Negro” comment turned into a political crisis for the Senate Majority Leader. Before coverage of the earthquake in Haiti pushed the controversy from the news media’s attention, Republicans were calling for his resignation. They said it’s the same as when Trent Lott was forced to resign as Senate Majority Leader after speaking at a birthday celebration for then-Sen. Strom Thurmond. Lott said, “We wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years” if Thurmond – who ran on a segregationist ticket – was elected president in 1948. Sorry GOP. It’s not the same.
Besides the political pressure on Reid to resign, his remarks also prompted talk about a national conversation on race. Professor Michael Eric Dyson said Reid’s remarks were a “teachable moment” for Barack Obama and the president needs to deal with the issue of race. Dyson added that Obama “runs from race like a black man runs from a cop.” That’s not an accurate analogy, nor is it particularly helpful when talking about race, but Obama would be an ideal choice begin a national conversation on race. Dr. Boyce Watkins, though, has a few reasons why Obama shouldn’t begin the conversation. One of which, alienating some white voters, Obama himself probably realizes.
It’s fitting that the issue of race comes up around the time we celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday while at the same time looking back at Obama’s (historic, though disappointing to some) first year in office. While his ascendancy to the Oval Office is proof that America has come a long way regarding race, the national hissy-fit we just had over Harry Reid ungracefully speaking the truth is proof we have a long way to go. Former Al Gore Campaign Manager Donna Brazile said this about the Reid gaffe: “We don’t have a common language to discuss issues – especially issues like racism and the sensitivity around discussing race. And because of that, people often trip over themselves.”
Finding that common language would help start a national conversation on race. But what exactly is a “national conversation?” If the United States is going to make an effort to talk about race on both national and local levels, how would that actually happen? Logistically speaking, how would a conversation on a national scale work?
Continue reading 'Can We Talk?'»
Brace yourself for Question No. 9.
In case you haven’t heard, Question No. 9 on the 2010 U.S. Census, which will begin to be mailed on March 15, asks “What is Person 1′s Race?” One of the choices is “Black, African Am., or Negro.”
The antiquated word “Negro” has apparently been on previous census forms. (I can’t remember the census form 10 years ago. Does anyone know if it was on the 2000 form?) Bureau spokesperson Shelly Lowe is quoted in theGrio saying census questions were tested and using Negro “outweighed the potential negatives.” Another Census Bureau spokesperson Jack Martin said in this New York Daily News article, “Many older African-Americans identified themselves that way, and many still do..Those who identify themselves as Negroes need to be included.”
Continue reading 'Black. African-American. Negro?'»