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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-17-11 08:54 PM
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40. More good reads
Adam Serwer: To Be Black, And Also A "Mutt"

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West speaks in the language of common humanity, but his verbal assumptions undermine the charade. He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want, West says, as though interracial intimacy, finding oneself "at home" with a "them" were, by definition, a form of self-hatred. My mother faced such accusations, having married my father in the late 1960s. Time has a way of excusing ignorance, but at least insults hurled in the street do not make any pretense to intellectual respectability. West believes what he is saying is profound. It is petty.

In response to perceived social slights, West severs Obama from any individual claim to blackness while inviting him to accept the terms of an implicit contract by which his lost negritude might be restored. For mixed people, blackness is not accepted as a fact of existence but something negotiable, a question of membership to which those whom are Truly Black may grant you access. This gives the game away of course, the reality of race as an invention, if one we have no choice but to live with.

Growing up mixed you sometimes face a kind of confusion. Those around you press you to make a choice about how much of yourself you're willing to give up, how much you're are willing to pretend in order to claim membership in one club or another. West demands to know why Obama isn't sitting at the black table in the dining hall, while reminding him that he's only welcome there by his graces. What you eventually learn is that peace is not something the "gatekeepers" have to offer and is the last thing they want you to find. Eventually you learn the rules of the game are silly and destructive, and who you are can't be negotiated either way.

To some degree this is just a part of adolescence, but most people have grown out of this kind of racial pageantry by middle age. West has not, but perhaps worse, he assumes the president has not. Perhaps he did not read the president's autobiography, or he would have realized that Obama is not a lost little mulatto child who is willing to give West something in exchange for that which is not West's to trade. Obama's struggle to find peace with himself is essentially the opposite of "deracination," a term that takes on all the force of an epithet here. Obama is lambasted as a Kenyan anti-colonialist by the likes of Newt Gingrich, and as a wide-eyed surrogate of "upper middle class white and Jewish men" by the likes of West. To have one group of morons question your citizenship while others question your blackness. To have one's very being interrogated by those who, because of their own pathologies, see your difference as a kind of terrible mistake, an anomaly to be soothed with toxic balm of archaic social binaries, this is what it means to be black, and also a mutt.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates: Gathering The Tribe

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That last point is key. As surely as Trump was whistling at a certain tribe of grievance-mongering white people when he demanded to see Obama's grades, West is whistling to a tribe of grievance-mongering black people, when he tars Obama as fearful of "free" black men and culturally white. But West's constituency is considerably smaller. Among the presumably mentally-enslaved black masses, Obama is arguably the most popular public figure in the country, outdistanced only by his wife.

This is rather personal for me. I went off to Howard University when I was 18. The greatest experience I had at the Mecca was bearing witness to the broad diversity of the black community. I had never met black people who were in Jack and Jill, or listened to Marilyn Manson, or were openly gay. I had never met Hispanic black people, or black people from Canada. I think if Howard had casted out every biracial black person, or black person who'd grown up as an "only," or surrounded by white culture, we would have cut our student body in half and the school would have gone out business.

I learned there that to be black was to be born into a family, who'd taken the one-drop rule, flipped it, and created their own personal rainbow. And that power of irony, embedded in our very name, holds me in such a way, that to lose that aspect of blackness would mean losing the thing itself. If I can't flip it, I don't want it.

I am not one for shrinking the tribe. I learned that at Howard University. Perhaps at Princeton, as with so much, black studies are more advanced.




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