Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trading an Education for Thug Life

Mr. Tapscott came across this. Let's discuss in the comments! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.-J. Russell

Trading an Education for Thug Life
June 15, 2009 · 3 Comments

By Dr. Christopher J. Metzler

metzlerIn the past several weeks, we have witnessed "two Black men in a Cadillac" being accused of kidnapping a White woman. The truth was that the woman had voluntarily gone to Disney World and could not tell her husband. He would find it hard to believe that she would go to Disney. It was easier, she reasoned, that he and indeed the world would believe that Black men in a Cadillac would kidnap her. After all, according to her logic, we have a reputation for that.

We also learned that yet another plain clothes Black police officer was shot by one of his colleagues who mistook him for a criminal. We also mourned the shooting and killing of a security officer at the Holocaust Museum by a White supremacist. Leading me to ask the question: "Where can a brother go to get his reputation back?"

Ever since "Birth of a Nation" it has been popular to portray Black men as thugs and criminals. Despite the passage of time, these image have not faded from memory. Instead, they have been used to justify racial profiling of suspects leading to the crimes of "Driving While Black," "Walking While Black" and "Shopping While Black."

These stereotypes apply to Black men no matter our position, education or social status. The impact of this societal marker is a sullied reputation in the minds of society as a whole. Thus, the fact that we have achieved great success and/or education does not exempt us from having our reputation come into question.

Let's be clear that Whites are not exclusively responsible for the racial caricature of Black men as criminals.

Also bearing responsibility are some hip hop artists and scores of young Black men who would rather show us the crack of their behinds than the power of their brains. The result is a reputation for violence and base vulgarity that is coming close to being beyond repair.

First, there are simply too many White people in America, who, with reckless abandon, act on their closely held racialized stereotypes of Black men, resulting in our murder and further marginalization. What is even more disturbing is that the White people of whom I write simply refuse to admit their fidelity to the racial stereotypes. Instead, they choose to blame the routine occurrence of the murder of Black plain clothes officers by their White colleagues as "mistaken identity." If this is to be believed, why don't Black plain clothes officers mistake White plain clothes officers as criminals in as high a number?

Second, Susan Smith, Charles Stewart and other racially conscious criminals understand that their stories have more currency with law enforcement if the alleged perpetrator is a Black man. To be sure, both Tawana Brawley and Crystal Gail Mangum blamed their assaults on White men and both lied. Both women relied on stereotypes. The question, however, is whether their reliance on stereotypes has sullied the reputation of White men in general. Do people see White men more so as criminals now as they did before the allegations? Are Black women likely to claim that they have been abducted by White men in order to cover up a crime? Do White women clutch their pursues when White men are in the elevator with them? Most likely not. This is because in the United States few people have internalized stereotypes of White men as prone to random violence as a result of their race. They have, however, uncritically done so with Black men.

Third, some hip hop artists, athletes and other Black celebrities are also complicit in perpetuating the stereotype of Black man as criminal and thug. One need only look at the penis-centric image of the gangsta life purveyed by the people of whom I write. They are among the most crotch-holding, gyrating images anywhere. There is no excuse for the violent lyrics, misogyny and overreliance on the feigned masculinity they use to make their living. Their profanity-based brand of Black male masculinity is nothing more than a modern day reincarnation of the images that we fought so hard against in the Jim Crow era. The plantation has gone digital, virtual and viral. So while they crank out their latest hit, they also sell out the reputation of Black men knowingly and willingly and then decry racial profiling. Have they no shame?

Fourth, young Black boys and men have bought into the Black man as thug reputation in alarming numbers. Many of our young Black boys are choosing to fail in school because they confuse masculinity with thug life. For them it is not about how hard you study, but how hard you are. Half-dressed and half-educated, they enter a world that has already decided their fate based on a reputation that is part racist, part undeserved and fully difficult to overcome. The reputation of Black men as strong, responsible, intelligent, contributing members of a sometimes hostile American society is close to extinction.

So, where does a Brother go to get his reputation back?

Dr. Christopher J. Metzler is the author of The Construction and Rearticulation of Race in a 'post-racial' America and an associate dean at Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Wish For A Better Republican Party

I am an African-American male, and I am a liberal Democrat—not a surprise right? Even before the Democrats elected an African-American as their candidate the party knew they could depend on the African-American vote, and the Republicans knew this as well. Although the Republicans have selected Michael Steele to be their party chairman, it would be surprising for someone not to believe that the main reason he was chosen was because he could critically critique Barack Obama without being called a racist like a white man unfairly would possibly be labeled by some people. One of the reasons Democrats carry the minority vote in such a resounding manner is because the Democratic Party supports many social programs that “help” African-Americans. The Democratic Party pushes for things like affirmative action, and welfare that are meant to help minorities. So, when Republicans go against the Democrats on these issues they are portrayed as racists. The Republican Party believes the way to help minorities is to allow them to stand on their own, and then reward the ones that achieve success—which contrasts with many of the Democratic views. Cornell West in Race Matters stated that the best plan is a compilation of ideas from the Democratic and Republican Party. For example, when talking about the welfare program I do not believe that I should have to pay taxes for people who do not want a job. I do not believe I should have to pay for people that cannot keep a job because they are irresponsible, and I do not believe I should have to pay for adults that consciously make decisions that are not in their best interest. I believe everyone has the right to live how they choose, but that I should not be obligated to pay for someone who constantly makes bad decisions because they believe the government will support them. I do however believe welfare is a program that should not be done away with. The way it is structured hinders more people than it helps though. The program encourages people to live off the government, and makes it easier for a people to become complacent and not advance in society. These are all arguments that Republicans bring up, but because they are seen as the party against minorities people who disagree with them easily refute these claims. The welfare system in America should be restructured to reward people who are trying to make a living for themselves, but because of certain circumstances they need a little help. Here is where the mixing of Republican and Democratic ideas come in: the system must still monetarily support people as Democrats believe, but it must only support those that are making a true effort to support themselves as the Republicans believe they should.

I think both parties have good ideas on a range of issues, but on most fundamental issues I believe the Democrats are correct. I do hope that the Republican Party can become more inclusive, and relinquish some of their alienating ideas. I hope the Republican Party can do this because it is better for the country and for African-Americans if the Democratic Party has to fight for the African- American vote. Right now for an African-American to be Republican is taboo, and to me it creates this environment where the Democrats can take the African-American vote for granted. Right now the two parties are fighting for the large, and growing Hispanic vote. I would like to see a restructured Republican Party that has a chance to steal some of the African-American votes so that the parties fight over their vote as they are over the Hispanic vote. Now, with that being said I am a Democrat and want my party to always be the stronger and more successful party. I am not hoping for the Republican Party to win any elections, but if they can steal African-American voters then the Democratic Party would have no choice but to evaluate how they can serve the African-Americans as they do other demographics when they are fighting for their votes. I do not think it would be hard for Republicans to initiate this battle since most African-Americans are socially conservative (Religious, against gay marriage, support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), but the Republican Party would have to get rid of voices like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Dick Cheney, and other Republicans that represent nothing but alienation. If this new Republican Party is ever created it will no longer be taboo to be a black Republican.

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