Thursday, November 29, 2007

On being "Post-Black"

I read an interesting post about African American bloggers. The post was by Shelly of the blog BoringBlackChick. Here is an excerpt:

"The main thing though - and the thing I want to discuss here today - is that virtually every black blogger I have come across from the US has race and racial issues making up a HUGE chunk of whatever they write about: Black music & culture. Black on black crime. African American demographics/surveys. Black politicians. Media representation of black people. Black hair. Black people in education. Middle class blacks vs. "Low class"/poor blacks. House Negroes vs. Field Negroes. Black conservatives vs. black radicals. The state of the black family. Mixed race relationships/friendships.

You get the idea. Whether it's serious or humourous, intellectual or frivolous, it is very apparent that African American bloggers have race at the top of their agenda. Everything is distilled through an exclusively race-biased lens or is brought back to black/white racial politics."

Read the rest of Shelly's post here.

This and a previous post by me along with comments on that post have lead me to ponder being "post-Black" To me the definition of post-Black is when a Black person no longer primarily defines her or him self as being Black. It does not mean that one is saying that they are no longer Black, just that being Black is not necessarily the most important component of who they are.

Is this the direction that some Black people are trending?

When I examine my own feelings about race I consider two schools of my thought. First, that race is an invention of European Supremacists hundreds of years ago. And that my following this construct of race still leaves me under their thumb all these years later. And that if race is not real then I'm living my life being partly defined by something that is non-existent.

Second, I feel that over time, even though race is a falsehood, that cultural similarities have developed between people who have been classified of the same race. So that even if technically race does not exist, it exists in practice.

My question is, would it be in the collective best interest of African Americans and all Black people to disavow race as an identifying factor? Would we be better off discarding race as our primary form of identity?

Lets look at what might happen if we did.

We would need to look closer at people as individuals rather than having the crutch of race as a device to find a place within a group.

Also we would have to in many case redefine who we our in our own minds. If we have been taught and conditioned to use the color of our skin as an indicator of who we are then without that we will have to look deeper.

The larger society would eventually be forced to identify us in other ways. For instance if we refuse to answer questions about race on a job application, on a census report or on a government application for things such as a drivers license, then society would be forced to look for other ways to identify us.

Politically we might not be lumped into a group simply based on color. Yesterday I read an article at ChicagoTribune.com, where the headline read: Black voters focus on Clinton, Obama. My first thought when seeing that was that I'm Black and I'm not focusing on those particular candidates. The article did not differentiate between middle class Blacks, soccer mom Blacks, Single, married or evangelical Blacks, just Blacks. Those demographic categories are available to Whites, so why not us?

And on a spiritual note, I wonder if ,whatever Supreme being that you believe in, intended for us to live our lives being Black? How much of who "God" intended for us to be has been and is being lost in being Black? Shouldn't we have the freedom just to be human?

What are your thoughts? Do you see a "post-Black" era approaching. Do you hope that we are moving toward being "post-Black"? Do you think being "post-Black would be a good thing or bad?

As Shelly notes, we African Americans spend an inordinate amount of time being, talking and thinking about being Black. Just imagine what we could accomplish if we could use all that energy for other things.

Imagine what we could have done with all the seconds, minutes, hours , days, months, years and decades that we have spent pondering race since the first African was dragged ashore here in the U.S.


27 comments:

browngirl said...

great post! i saw a panel discuss this a few months ago @ the harlem book fair. it was broadcast live all day on booktv. anyway, i'm still ambivalent on this issue. and that's what it is--yet another issue for black folks to get wrangled into and debate. unfortunately, no matter what we do as a paeople we will never have complete cooperation for the positive effects you mention to come to fruition if we all were to make our blackness a subordinate feature to some other signifying attribute. also, if even by a miracle we all could unify on this, the WASPs who are the dominant group in American society would never cease their use of stratification to give the allusion that they are supreme. it's true and i agree that "race" is a man-made means of identifying and lumping together groups of people mainly on the basis of shared physical traits and cultural characteristics. They don't take into consideration that we all do not have kinky hair, wide noses and thick lips among other things. or, that we do not all relate to the ghetto, red kool-aid, chitlins, shuckin and jivin, and whatever else they want to attribute to black people. is subscription to "post-black" the answer to us truly gaining equality unmuddled by misjudgements based on the superficial? no, because a question still lingers for those who do subscribe to "post-black", the question that leads them to this practice: do i really want to held accountable for ALL black people? thus my own uncertainty lingers...

Tami said...

Great post, MDC!

I posted a response on my blog.

Liz said...

I write about everything under the sun on my blog. You know, important stuff like Depeche Mode (LOL!), but sometimes I feel bad that I don't write about race more frequently. I suppose because I see how it's soaked into everything here, it impacts everything and people are in such denial that it does.

I think Black folks write about it so frequently because the rest of America wants to act like everything is hunky dory. We can go on about our daily lives, falling in love, buying milk and bread at the grocery and sitting in traffic, just like everyone who's not Black. BUT we are more likely to face police harassment, be a victim of violent crime, be denied housing, get HIV, etc.

Black people are not going to lie about what is really going down in this country. If we don't speak up and out about what's what, then who does?

That said, I try to see my identity being more of a spiritual construct. It's the one constant that is not dependent on human opinion.

Miriam said...

She should check out my blog (live from Israel). Its hardly about color. But that's the problem.

I don't get much traffic by black bloggers because it may seem not to their interest. It is a very unique perspective (judaism).

just getting my thoughts out. I may also post this on her blog.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Browngirl,

I think Post-Black is really about individuality. How "I" want to define me and then how I demand others to see me. So having large numbers of people buying into it may not matter.

I agree with you about the things that are attributed to all Black people, like red Kool-Aid (lol), political views etc. That's really annoying. And worse when problems are attributed to all Black people it makes them harder to solve because all Black people do not suffer from the same problems.


Tami,

I look forward to reading it.


Liz,

"That said, I try to see my identity being more of a spiritual construct. It's the one constant that is not dependent on human opinion."

That is a great way to define yourself and that's mainly what I'm talking about, how we define ourselves rather than how society tries to define us.

Randi523 said...

My blog, www.givealotlosealot.blogspot.com is totally different. It addresses general health issues and weight loss, topics that cross all races, religions, genders, etc.

However, I do feel that we need to discuss race related matters. Problems have to be addressed (talked about, brought to light) before they can ever be solved. The Black blogosphere allows us to do this effectively. Moreover, it allows us to talk about current events that affect US that often don't get covered by mainstream media.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Miriam,

I really like your blog, I stop by all the time! (lol).


Randi,

You and Miriam are really making my point, that your blogs should be defined the way you want to.

I enjoy reading your blogs (Liz included) because you focus on things of interest to you. That may occasionally have something to do with being Black but not always.

I wrote a while back about having activism overload sometimes, so it's nice when some of my blog stops take me away from that.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Miriam and Randi,

Sorry I had a "duh' moment. The two of you were responding to shelly's post.

I'm going to blame me not getting that the first time on my being at work. (lol)

Anyway, she was just making an observation that I see also around the Black blogisphere.

Please don't take her words as anymore than her observation. I think she made a very astute observation based on her travels around the blogisphere.

Thanks

Randi523 said...

I personally did not take offense to her words. I do feel that we need a break from the serious ills of the world sometimes.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Randi,

I agree.

Thanks

Content Black Woman said...

Mes Deux Cents:

This is the beauty of blogging. As bloggers, we can talk about anything that resonates with us in the hopes we can attract others out here in the blogosphere with whom our thoughts also resonates.

We as bloggers - Black bloggers in particular - may not always agree -however, I must admit, I am addicted to the array of opinions and thoughts that contribute to and help frame the discussion of what it is to be Black in America and in the is world - it is a valued perspective. If it wasn't, it wouldn't have such an impact on some of the most poignant issues that pertain to us.

For the first time in a long time, we have a real, authentic voice that is positioned to help frame our message void or dependence on mainstream media.

Exciting and good times!

Peace,

CBW

Tami said...

Liz,

"That said, I try to see my identity being more of a spiritual construct. It's the one constant that is not dependent on human opinion."

Amen to that. I think that's what post-black means. And, as I said in my blog post, I think reaching this point is one point of the racial "struggle."

Mes Deux Cents said...

Hi CBW,

Wow that is an amazing comment. It certainly sums up the way I feel about blogging and the blogisphere.

I learn more about issues that are important to me in one hour reading blogs than in a week of reading or watching mainstream media.

Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

Sage said...

Great post, MDC!

On my blog (http://poshsagepoetry.blogspot.com), I typically write about what I'm passion about it: God, family, friends, education, etc.

In regards to education, I'm always looking to see that African-Americans and other under-represented populations receive an equitable education.

On my poetry blog (http://poshsagepoetry.blogspot.com) I blog, again -- about family, friends, love, God...and I'm branching out to other topics, as well. Race...perhaps.

With that said...it's not about race really...it's what you're passionate about...

DMB said...

I think Black people, generally speaking, have a double standard. We want to be Black and address Black issues when it is 'convenient' or 'flattering'.

Black issues largely ignored by the media (missing persons, for ex.) are okay to discuss, but if we
(or someone else) address our biggest issues (single motherhood, poverty, violence, etc.) then Black folks (often our Black leaders) get offended or even embarrassed and say we are "blaming the victim".

On another note:
I think at times that folks take "being Black" just a little too far--like being Black means that you have an automatic predisposition to liking a certain kind of music, food, and that if you have certain interests, you are not "Black" enough.

Which is prepostorous.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Sage,

I think a lot of African American bloggers are very passionate about being African American.

When my blog was just a 'baby' another blogger told me to just blog about whatever I really cared about. That's what I do, sometimes African American issues sometimes not.



DMB,

I saw a Black woman on t.v. this evening talking about her hair. She began by saying, "we African American women have a particular kind of hair". I thought to myself that is so untrue. We have every texture and kind of hair. So you're right, some of us pigeon hole ourselves and get really angry when it's done by someone else.

Ehav Ever said...

Hey MDC,

I know you already know what angle I am going to come from. I am so predictable in this area. The whole black discussion has ALWAYS been a confusing one for me.

I think the problem that many African Americans/US Blacks face is, What exactly does being African American or Black mean? If there were some universal definition then it would be easier to figure out what being Post Black EXACTLY means.

As an example, people can say that they are Chinese, but there is a deeper meaning to this. China, just like Japan, is a very ethnic driven culture. A person is not simply Chinese, you are also a part of an ethnic group related to how long they have been China, and if they have ever ruled China. There is a Chinese language, but there are also ethnic languages. Being a part of a particular Chinese ethnicity is considered to be REALLY Chinese. Han is at the top of the list from what I understand. In order to see the 56 Chinese ethnic groups go here. So when Chinese people go places they can connect with other Chinese on two levels national and ethnic. For example, some people who watch kung fu movies think that they are hearing Chinese when they may actually be hearing Cantonese.

Another issue. Who or what defines what Black culture is and isn't? For example, where is the big black book of the rules of blackness? If one black person says that ABCD makes someone a sellout, but EFGH makes someone really black where are they getting that from?

Further, is Urban culture Black? Is Pan Africanism Black? Is Ghetto Black? Are the Suburbs black? Is Black Power black? Is the Nation of Islam Black? Are the Gullahs black? Are the Hebrew Israelites black? Are Hatian Americans Black? Are people whose families were enslaved in America black? Are Africans who moved to America with the last 100 years Black? What language is a black language? What defines a black community? What products and goods are only used by blacks and can only be made and purchased from blacks? What is the definition of black music? Is being black being defined strictly by African Americans or can others define it? Are people 50% of one thing and 50% African American black? If you had to describe in short and concise terms what defines a black person could you do and cover all the people you consider black? What if you met people who you thought were black, but based on your definition they met none or only 1 or 2 of your criteria are they still black and if so why where do such definitions come from?

These are the type of questions that pretty much don't have universal answers when it comes to the black question. The idea of being black is a very hazy one in the American sense. Just like now a days being White is hazy. For example, German Americans and Irish Americans used to hate each other. Now the lines between them can be very blurry for some "White" people. If there were more accepted, logical, and universal answers it would be easier to say exactly what the pre-black, neo-black, and post-black era means for all people considered black. Whatever that means.

Ehav Ever said...

One more thing. One bit of information that may also help you and others on this road is to find out from the older generations what being black meant to them.

Step 1 - The first known African to come to America was on board Columbus's ship. There are some who believe that Africans may have traveled to America before that point. Regardless, what did being black mean to them?

Step 2 - From the late 1600's to the early 1700's what did being black mean then?

Step 3 - From the 1700's to the 1800's what did it mean?

Step 4 - From the 1800's to the 1900's what did it mean?

Step 5 - From the early 1900's until the 1950's and 1960's what did it mean?

There has been some good books written on how these periods view the race issue. There are some good web-sites on cities with Free African American populations vs. Enslaved African American populations and how they were perceived by society. It is a study that only recently getting some attention, but is difficult to research.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Ehav,

Once again you have added another layer of depth to the conversation.

I think the point of being Post-Black is that each individual decides for her or himself what Blackness means in their life.

The trouble is that as you say there are so many definitions of being Black that it's really impossible to define Blackness for the entire group.

That's where Post-Black comes in. It eliminates the need to define Blackness for the larger group. So then we would begin to see true ethnic diversity within African America as people began to define themselves and gravitate toward others of the same ilk.

Ehav Ever said...

Hey MDC,

I actually think what you are talking about is a VERY good thing. These issues of who are you responsible to and who are your people, are things that really need exploration by African Americans. This lack of definition is what may be the big problem in blacks trying to build communities. It may also explain why so many of the "black" movements failed or lost their luster over time. Maybe they were being to far reaching in trying to unite ethnic groups who have nothing in common.

I think once or if certain African American ethnic groups who are like minded reconnect or connect it will be easier for them to lock out negativity. It may be easier for them to inspire said other black ethnic groups if that is needed or even their prerogative.

If Oprah were to have a show about this I would love to be on the panel with you on it. I wonder what comes after Post-Black, Retro-Black. (smile) Maybe the after affect is that African Americans will use methods like DNA and oral history to try and reconnect with the ethnic groups in Africa they may have come from. I know of some Igbos in Nigeria who were trying to reconnect with some African Americans and Gullahs a few years ago.

Shelly said...

"Also we would have to in many case redefine who we our in our own minds. If we have been taught and conditioned to use the color of our skin as an indicator of who we are then without that we will have to look deeper."

I guess this kinda is where I'm at in my life. My spiritual development is increasingly leading me to a path whereby I think waaaaay beyond the often illusory aspects of race, gender, nationality, personality. My true soul identity is eternal and much, much more than any or all of these things!

Thanks MDC for linking to my post. The response has been huge, at least for my little blog! Kinda reflects what I was saying in the first place.

SUCH a complex topic and we still have so much work to do...

Much love :-))

Mes Deux Cents said...

Ehav,

There are already lots of people using DNA to try to find out more about their ancestry.

I have and am considering doing it too. I only know about my family til my grandparents, that's where my knowledge ends.

Now that would be an amazing Oprah!



Shelly,

I think there are many African Americans and Black people all around the world who want to define themselves. And that is a good thing.

I think lots of people are just tired of race. There is more to life than that.

And thanks for writing such an insightful post!

Sage said...

@ MDC's "AA bloggers are very passionate about being AA": Exactly! And I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

I think that sometimes, people over-analyze things: Why black folks always doing this, why black folks always doing that? Because we want to. Not because we're black, but because we want to.

From what I am reading from others' comments, it seems that there is no real definition of what makes you black. And that's ok. At the end of the day, we're humans.

I think our society gets caught up in trying to categorize everything and end up w/sterotypes. Don't just assume that because I'm AA, I eat watermelon. I don't. Melons make me nauseous. I do like collard greens and fried chicken. Why? Just because I do; they taste good. LOL.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Sage,

"Not because we're black, but because we want to."

That's it indeed. I think fewer and fewer things can be attributed to being Black. It's just individual preferences.

Sage said...

Exactly! :-)

browngirl said...

that's why everyone needs to just try to be the best "whatever" person thay can be. if we start there maybe when those who want to lump us all together can have a more positive outlook, but we have to do it first...

Mes Deux Cents said...

Browngirl,

I agree. And I also think that many of us already are trying to be the best. The media just doesn't cover it.

That's why I love blogs. We can get the info directly from each other about our successes.

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About Me

West Coast, United States
African American, Poet?, Vegetarian, Music lover, Agoraphobic, Social Phobic

My Favorite Poet

My Favorite Poet
Staceyann Chin

My Favorite Track Athlete

My Favorite Track Athlete
Christine Arron