Collective Action and The Talented Tenth
“I love black people, but I hate niggas”
Right now, I am watching the Colts receive the AFC Championship trophy. However, one of the major things the commentators kept bringing up was that this is the first time that two African-American coaches will be in the Super Bowl. Before they would bring up the games, the win, their intelligence as coaches-race was the primary focus, as this was a milestone for all African Americans. And it was. However, it got me to thinking: “Will African Americans ever stop being considered as a collective, homogenous group and is this necessarily a bad thing?” Just as we are quick to appropriate the good, what about the bad or less than spectacular aspects of our community?
I have long been of the opinion that there are two characters in African-American society, African-Americans and Niggers. And the gulf between the two is growing so wide that soon we will not be able to hide behind skin color anymore, and it will come down to economics, which is what race has been a red herring for all along. But I digress. African Americans are known to complain that niggers make the rest of the race look bad and are holding us back by their ignorance (read: Bill Cosby). And Niggers say that African Americans are too uppity, self-righteous and tame. As such, there is no small amount of animosity between these two sub-groups in African American society. And this concerns me deeply.
First, to answer my own question, I believe that African Americans will never stop being considered a homogenous group in America and as such, the actions of the few will forever reflect on the majority. We do not have the luxury of Caucasians, who do not concern themselves with hillbillies in the Appalachians. Unlike them, we have African-Americans and Niggers often sitting at the same table, in the same family. So, for those individuals who wish it would not happen, and think it should not occur anymore where we are viewed as a collective, do not hold your breath, it aint gonna happen (my thoughts as to why is another post in and of itself). We are so mixed together that we can hardly tell the difference between the two. We still unconsciously view ourselves as a collective.
However, here is a little insight that Bill Cosby and others of the Black intelligentsia might not understand. In fact, it is borderline heretical, as a member of the progressive African-American constituency: African-Americans need Niggers and Niggers need African-Americans. It is the yin and yang of racial politics. God creates duality for a purpose. In every African-American, there is a part of him willing to “burn this so and so down” if he feels like he is being disrespected, and it goes past being assertive. And it goes the other way also.
Now, here is the million dollar question: “How do we help each other as members of this collective ethnic group?”
I will not lie; I was supremely frustrated with certain aspects of the African American community. And my frustration culminated in a heated discussion with Garlin. At that point, I was ready to turn my back on the Niggers, and like Noah, focus on saving my own family from the impending doom and finality of the decimation of the middle-class and the haves v. have-nots. We knew all too well the threat of some segments of our ethnic community being a permanent underclass in America. And we could not understand why more people did not see it and why we seemed powerless to stop it.
Even in my own family, I could not understand how some of my family members chose not to follow my example. I tried in vain to encourage various cousins to go to school and consolidate the gains of my aunts and uncles so that we could make that power play to prosperity.
But on the other end, when I would speak with middle to upper class blacks and listened to their characterization of those perceived as Niggers, I was not satisfied either. It was a characterization that lacked compassion and understanding. Only then could I understand why we cannot come to the table and collaborate. Somewhere down the line, we received a distorted view of one another.
So, I pose the question, what is our place in this mess? How do we help our brothers and sisters who are characterized as Niggers and how can they help us, since they are here for a reason? I don’t have the answer. I have not even figured out how to get those who are not like myself to listen to me. But I do know that I have to check my self-righteousness, ego, and frustration at the door. I do know that I need them and they need me, and I will always go back to the ‘hood, whether they want me there or not. And no matter how high a barrier my education and professional achievement erects between us, I will be there. No matter how some of us glorify the Thug Life and our impoverished backgrounds as a badge of honor, and others of us who believe money entitles us to special treatment. We need each other. Why? Because at one point, in American society, we all were Niggers. Whether we like it or not, we have and probably always will be treated as a collective group in America. But only now, do we have the benefit to refer to ourselves as African Americans.
P.S. For more commentary, go to this link.