How do we draw the Nigger line?
By Rev. Rahelio Soleil
"People say Colin Powell speaks so well. What'd they expect him to say? 'Ahmma drop me a bomb'? - Chris Rock
The question of "what is black" has been a table topic for years. The 1990s phrase "keeping it real" denoting a call for black authenticity, was unfortunately an answer that offered a niggarish picture. You get caught sleeping with your girlfriend's sister and you end up on Jerry Springer, what do you say? "Hey, I'm just keeping it real."
Asked why you're selling drugs to fund a lawless lifestyle, "jus' keepin' it real."
The response of most of Black America to that nonsense was "yeah, you're keeping it real alright....real stupid."
Still unanswered is what exactly it is to be really black? It depends on who you ask. Black authentication can be a tedious process.
To the ghetto thug, real-black is stating that America is crooked and tilted in favor of whites, therefore, being black means a constant state of rebellion and a self-centred plan for personal gain - by any means necessary.
You cannot steal from thieves and white people gained nothing in history without theft, and their authority is not the product of the clean ethic they expect of blacks today.
To the low-income black family attempting to stay away from the ghetto, thug-black is charaterized by church participation, faith that Jesus saves, and the reality that living between dangerous thugs and the disigenuous white America is a vulnerable state of being.
To the successful black, it has even more obligations and perils than the others. Black is working twice as hard as white, being obligated to speak and account for an entire race, and to a certain point, being embarrassed by the ghetto thug; the superstitious and undereducated church traditionalists, and the minstrels who dance for Whitey's media coon show.
Then, there is that loud but small minority of blacks who see black as the new white. They forward a notion that black does not evolve into its full potential until it uproots black conventional wisdom and implants white tradition and white policy. Anything seen as uniquely black is blasted for being deficient and second class. Old black is scandalous, new black has undergone a Anglo conversion.
What you see in the real black is a breadth and depth more sophisticated than is ever admitted. Even black folks may not be able to articulate its definition, but, like obscenity, we know it when we see it.
Why isn't Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas black? His skin is black. His lips are thick. His hair is kinky (as is he according to Anita Hill).
Thomas is the perfect median point in the blackness discussion, because his detractors have a potent disinclination to see anything black about him, while his supporters see him as a viable candidate for modeling a newer, improved black.
The simple answer is that Thomas is not black because he shares almost nothing in common with common black people. He is white with black skin. Anyone who claims otherwise will have to suggest what he exhibits that shows a link to the people who gave him life.
One thing all authentically black people know is that the concept of blackness can never be trusted to whites for interpretation.
That is a racist statement, I know. I am a racist. America is racist. Only drunk people and liars would say differently. As you read this, if you are silently disagreeing and personally protesting your own status as a racist, you are victim to the worst form of denial. It is one thing to lie to others, but it requires an entirely different set of disassociation to lie to yourself. You are a racist, get over it.
Look at all the levels of white interpretation of "what is black" and you come up with nothing but distortion.
The white liberal sees black as simultaneously noble, compromised, and victimized. I could write volumes about how white liberalism is a loving caress of on the cheek followed by an insulting backhand slap. The bottom line to white liberalism's take on us is "you're not stupid because of genetics, you're stupid because of victimization - we'll protect you until you are smart enough to protect yourselves."
On the otherside of the white duopoly is the conservative test of blackness. This one is truly narrow. Either you're one of our chosen blacks who mimic white ways, respect the superiority of white social order, yield on all questions of past mistreatment, and are willing to speak forcefully against all blacks who do not tow this line, or else you are a welfare loving, socialist nigger born of an inferior culture and a bastardized intellect.
If you're not Thomas, you're a plantation nigger voting toward the left solely for purposes of gaining unwarranted subsidy.
Between these views there is no room for the wide variety of black people. The white right will discount every black who does not ride their jock, and the white left will assail every black who drinks the right-wing Kool-Aid.
The complexity of the blackness question raises its head from time to time and those watching aren't quite sure what to make of it.
This is the case with Bill Cosby, known to vote left with his money, time, and politics, who "shocked" those who don't know him with forthright comments that sounded downright conservative:
"Before he is finished, Cosby beats up on the black poor for their horrible education, their style of dress, the names they give their children, their backward speech and their consumptive habits. As a cruel coda, Cosby even suggests to the black poor that "God is tired of you"....Cosby bypassed, or, more accurately, short-circuited, the policing mechanism the black elite—the Afristocracy—habitually use to keep such thoughts from public view (This is done not so much to spare the poor but to save the black elite from further embarrassment. And no matter how you judge Cosby's comments, you can't help but believe that a great deal of his consternation with the poor stems from his desire to remove the shame he feels in their presence and about their activity in the world.) " - Dr. Micheal Eric Dyson
Neither the white left nor right could do much more than treat this situation with kid gloves. A supposedly liberal black with a spotless high profile who presents an inter-group criticism for the purpose of black improvement - not for the purpose of entertaining whites or selling books to them.
The bifurcated white camps had nothing to truly work with. He wasn't saying blacks were victims and he wasn't saying blacks should seek out Republicanism to save their souls. He was merely preaching something true black conservatives - those who traditionally vote Democratic while still preaching faith, education, hard work, and moral uprightness - have been saying for a long time.
But, it was open to charges of class warfare, most notably by Dr. Micheal Eric Dyson who wrote a strong, convincing book about the matter. I don't agree with a portion of Dyson's argument that says Cosby has never been a racialist, which diffuses his credibility on the issue now. In fact, Cosby is well studied in childhood education and has a long term affiliation with black educators.
Which brings me to why I love Chris Rock so much. Unlike most color commentators he honestly keeps it real. Real truthful. Real blunt. Real even. Real black. It doesn't matter who he hurts as long as it takes all sides to task in an effort to be accurate. It isn't too middle-class, too ghetto, too white hating, too this or that. It takes a large view, even though his material starts with this:
“Bring the Pain's most talked-about segment was the searing black-people-versus-niggers riff, in which Rock declares civil war. "I hate niggers," he announces fearlessly. "You can't have anything valuable in your house. Niggers will break in and take it all! Everything white people don't like about black people, black people don't like about black people. It's like our own personal civil war. On one side, there's black people. On the other, you've got niggers. The niggers have got to go. I love black people, but I hate niggers. I am tired of niggers. Tired, tired, tired." - Chris Rock
This material is something cathartic for blacks, whites, and anyone else who quite honestly is sick of niggers. But wait, there is a nuance - of course. The hitch is that Chris Rock knows something white America does not. He knows the true difference between black people, the majority, and the minority of blacks who fit the designation of "niggers" (who are roughly the equivelent of so-called "white trash").
And, in his litmus test the division between blacks and niggers is not a political, class, or color line. It is a behavior line that blacks themselves can observe faithfully being so close to the situation.
For the white left, the nigger line starts at Armstrong Williams. They'd never openly call him a nigger, but they think it. That stupid sellout nigger. If they don't think it, I'll do it for them - not for truth, just for fun.
For the white Right the nigger line begins with anyone who votes against Republicans.
Armstrong is a good black, Al Sharpton is a nigger. The Righties even have trouble with the squeeky, positive Barak Obama. In their eyes this self-made, hard working, morally upright Christian who preaches a new vision of forward thinking politics (void of victimization) might as well be DMX or Tupac.
These divisions are not new. White America chose Martin Luther King over Malcolm X, for us. Black America similarly attempted to elevate one group over the other as the "good" blacks. Long blasted as a "liberal" group the NAACP is far more conservative in the black universe than people think.
Before they accepted Rosa Park's case there were other woman who tested the racist bus laws:
“Parks wasn't the first black person to refuse to move to the back of the bus. Earlier that year, a woman had been carried off the bus clawing and kicking. Another woman had used profanity during her arrest. But the local NAACP declined to rally behind these women.” - Charles Colson
Not to say that the less than polite women before Parks were niggers, but, for the NAACP, just a bit nigger-ish.
To further address the class dynamic amongst black America's nigger line:
"...in the 1960s, when the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. felt he was being displaced as chief black spokesman by Martin Luther King Jr. he asked, "Who's this nigger preacher?" - Robert Fulford
All this said, the problem with true determining true blackness is that it ignores the reality of the majority of blacks.
The majority are not lawless, not in jail, not pregnant, not unemployed, not stupid, not victims, not on welfare, not seeking reparations, not victim of a plantation mentality, not voting Republican, not voting Democratic because they are politically neophytes, not Oprah, not Old Dirty Bastard, and not in the least bit seeking to be defined by upperclass blacks or academic whites.
The majority of blacks work for a living, attend church in greater numbers than whites, and are more likely to pray on a daily basis. There are more blacks with advanced degrees than there are in jail, double the number in college than on welfare, three times as many out of poverty as those in poverty. Almost 50% own their home and are married. Most telling, there are more blacks in the millitary than in jail and on welfare combined.
Where exactly are all these blacks in the discussions about blacks? Why is the vocabulary employed for discussion of blackness stocked with welfare, crime, slavery, victimization rather than triumph, progress, and striving? The majority of blacks have come a long way and are keeping their minds on self-sufficiency everyday.
These are Chris Rock blacks that he says he loves (as do I). These are the invisible blacks that the white left and right leave out of the picture. The Left wants us all downtrodden in order to justify failed programs and keep us as a political ornament.
The Right wants us all to be thuggish parasites in order to prove we are biologically defective and historic racism has played no part in how we arrived to today, under capitalized and less than equal in comparison to whites.
For political reasons it is necessary to draw the nigger line in stupid place. It is necessary to ignore what blacks are overall. You have to talk in terms of "rates" and "ratios" in order to make us look like a people who have not come a long way.
You must be crafty with the facts and the numbers to ignore we came from slavery, through Jim Crow, and Civil Rights battles to a time when we have over a million businesses that generate over 100 billion in receipts - making us, independently, keepers of a GNP larger than many nations with longer histories than ours.
You would have to have an axe to grind to miss the fact that we have the highest number of attorneys, physicians, teachers, police officers, firemen, and other respectable civic and private professionals that we've ever had in our history.
So, what is black if not a marvel (with some defects) of history? Authentic blackness is not on TV, it isn't to be found in the race related articles of conservative think tanks, and it isn't characterized by the rap music theater that is more popularized by white consumers and white distributors than by blacks.
Every day, in every corner of America, the majority of black people are truly keeping it real, even as the rest of the world struggles with what exactly that means.
Apart from being a priest, Soleil is a business consultant and political commentator on today's America. He Blogs at AmericanHotSausage