Black faces or Blackface?
Many thinking people of color have pondered the following circumstance: Being a minority, it is not often that you have members of your government who look like you. Usually, if/when one of your brethren is elected or appointed to public office, you feel a sense of pride. The question is, if that person does not have your best interest at heart, should you be proud of them?
The specific motivation for raising this question today is this story on Condoleezza Rice. She is not alone in being vulnerable, as many feel similarly about Clarence Thomas, Ward Connerly, and other prominent Black conservatives.
The goal of this discussion is not to argue whether or not these individuals have the “best interests” of Black people in this country. I would like to examine the merits of the notion that by simply being in prominent positions, these people are doing a service to the Black community.
On the surface, I agree that there is some nominal value in a Black person being in a visible position. The argument here is that the image alone is defeating stereotypes and opening doors for other Black people in the future to ascend beyond those heights. It may broaden the perspective of a young Black girl to see a Black woman serve as our nations chief diplomat. It may be inspirational for a Black boy to see a Black man on the Supreme Court bench. Black children can catch a glimpse of their possible future when they see Black professionals. Without these images, maybe children would see such things as unattainable. They would think that their only choice in life was to go the Hustle & Flow route. Seeing such things can give a person a lot more to look forward to.
However, this view is problematic because it does not take into account what it takes to transform possibility into reality. It’s one thing to see a Black professional, and a whole different thing to consistently interact with a Black professional as a child. It’s one thing to see a Black judge, but it’s a whole different thing to understand and observe how that judges decisions improve and protect your life and rights. I contend that there is little value in Black figureheads. They are no more than paintings on the wall: nice to look at, making absolutely difference.
Think about it. Why is it that we get pissed off whenever people speak of quotas? Two primary reasons. First, people see that the motivation for hiring/awarding contracts to/whatever-ing the “beneficiaries” of said quota is selfish and dishonest. Secondly, they realize that that selfish, dishonest motivation makes the act of hiring/awarding contracts to/whatever-ing MEANINGLESS!!!! That means that motivation and intentions must matter.
With that said, that is why it is important to be mindful of not only the motivations of the persons who are in these positions, but of the people who put them there as well. If the person in such a position has no motivation to at least care about or take into consideration the interests of his/her brethren, they might as well not be there claiming to be “trailblazing pioneers for their people.” Likewise, if the appointers of said position are doing so in sinister plots to divert attention from other actions and policies, I’d really rather they didn’t.
I’ll close by giving some examples. Please comment on the thoughts above and add to the list below.