So I’ve been sitting on this for nearly two months. With the conversations that have taken place the past week or so I feel I’m somewhat better able to articulate my thoughts on this. This is an exploration of ideas versus a set standard of do’s and don’ts. There’s a political component at stake where we must learn to navigate through another facet of an established infrastructure we may be vehemently opposed to. We may not have figured out how to make it work to our benefit yet. There’s a personal component where we may wish to compete but may not be prepared and have to develop a winning strategy. Or we could just be mad about the whole thing.
Is this the beginning of the end? Some people want separate categorizations for biracial and multiracial children. The ones that can will be folded into the white masses (as they will make accommodations for their dwindling numbers to continue their dominance) while others will be rejected and not allowed to do so. Is this a reliable scenario for banding together or a consolation prize tactic for retaining certain privileges?
From WAPO: Public schools in the Washington region and elsewhere are abandoning their check-one-box approach to gathering information about race and ethnicity in an effort to develop a more accurate portrait of classrooms transformed by immigration and interracial marriage. Next year, they will begin a separate count of students who are of more than one race.
I see this as a multi-layered scenario. There’s genetics, culture, historical acumen, modern strategies and choice. One consideration is about needing to recognize diversity of thought, outlook, experience and birth. Another is about outside attempts at diversionary tactics and divisiveness. Finally there’s the internal development we must do to advance. Some don’t agree on tactics while others don’t think certain efforts need to be made at all. This isn’t about setting people apart, denying parentage or putting down some in favor of others. This is about having a reality check.
Historically we can look at many people who were pioneers of the advancement of colored people who’s appearance could’ve lent them to be viewed as white: Thurgood Marshall, Adam Clayton Powell, Lena Horne and plenty of others. There may have been less options but they chose to align with the “Black” categorization for the uplift of all. I wonder how many people with their phenotype would willingly do so today when they could (rightfully) claim everything and the kitchen sink. I can understand why things that took place in the past no longer work today. I can also see where we need to stop playing old scripts. There have always been those who had a vested interest in establishing a hierarchy that they benefitted from (i.e paper bag test). I don’t see that trend ending any time soon so we know why that expression about “skin folk not always kin folk” exists.
There are those whose phenotype lends towards a Black categorization who do not want to be Black. They were taught to have disdain for the parts of their heritage deemed less than. They’ve continued to do so after the age of consent. They’re not going to be considered “white” under most circumstances when their biracial makeup includes any direct/recent African heritage.
Since whites are supposedly diminishing numerically they’ve upped the ante to change the Census for their benefit. (Some) Blacks have always banded together in solidarity for political and social purposes when set in opposition to whites. Intra-racially it was a different story. Those who were seeking advancement for themselves fought to separate themselves from the masses. This practice began during the forced enslavement of Africans. Of course the irony is how whites were fighting for independence while keeping people hostage but that’s why we need to really pay attention to our history and see how the few exert power over the masses.
We need to have our own power tactics in place. The best and brightest want to ensure their survival. They will have laws enacted and other societal traditions that maximize growth. Groups of people who thrive are not allowed to be left to their own individual devices inasmuch as the majority don’t do things that threaten the collective.
Black political power has been divided, short-sighted and focused on short-term goals. Those that declared themselves the “elites” of the bunch used phenotype to deny inclusion of a majority. How were they ever truly allies and why would those belonging outside those groups be able to trust an alliance built of a lie? Individuals have found ways around it, but what of the base? Sometimes it’s been more beneficial to work with those outside these groups. Thomas Jefferson went to great efforts to ensure that his progeny with Sally Hemmings would get the maximum benefits allowed under miscegenation laws and for those whose phenotype lent itself to be considered “white”. Why must we still discuss advancing like it was a new concept?
In a related argument you have Blacks with American Indian heritage who are being denied tribal membership so the majority can retain its leverage. Via Racewire:
Does affirming indigenous identity and sovereignty necessitate drawing boundaries? In excluding Blacks from nationhood, are the Cherokee replicating historical injustices they themselves suffered? Should a shared legacy of dispossession encourage unity, even if it means grappling with a historical blight?
There’s a personal component at play here, an emotional tie. Then there’s looking to the future and taking steps towards advancement. There’s a few discussions going on a some blogs that seek to empower Black women about how to navigate that Blackness, what emphasis should be placed on it, how to move out of a narrow definition of it, how to accept all of our different life experiences and accepting our different heritages/legacies/ethnicities. How do you elevate yourself if you’re stuck in the past? How do you catch up in the game of life when you didn’t know the particular game to begin with? Who are you measuring yourself against? Is feeling frustrated appropriate?
When you have a large portion of the “Black” population that doesn’t know their legacy and full spectrum heritage how does analysis of embracing power tactics really take root without addressing it? Some people may be able to move forward onto the next phase of development but what of the masses? If they’ve fallen down and the minority decides to leave them do we just say “too bad”? Then why even present it as collective advancement when it’s individual.
Finally, how does one group who may not consider themselves a group work within that group as well as work with those completely outside that group, survive and thrive? Choosing to negotiate between cultures is one thing, having the government fragmenting it is another. I feel as if I may have presented this as a circle with no exit path for the majority. I can’t say I believe that will be of benefit to us all, but it may lead to a more productive future. At least I hope so.