Monday, August 16, 2010

In Search of Blackness: Yo Black, what flavor are you?

Although it's been going on for longer than I've been alive; it appears to me that in the time since the "Obama Ascendancy" there is a mad scramble to define what "blackness" is. Black may be the flavor of the month but no one is quite sure what that means. From Michael Steele inviting Republicans up to his "heezy" to the right-wing talking heads seeing reparation conspiracy theories everywhere. We're witnessing a crazy scramble to put blackness in a box, therefore containing and subduing any thoughts of getting ahead of ourselves. (i.e. re-electing certain brown-skinned folks in 2012)

This cycle seems to rinse and repeat no matter how many times we grit our teeth and repeat one of the following:
  1. We are not a Monolith
  2. We come in multiple flavors
  3. We're a group of diverse individuals with varying experiences who happen to share a racial chromosome
  4. Don't put Baby in a corner
  5. We can't be defined, quit trying
Someone always has to try. And I feel the sentiment behind this is summed up well in the classic Black Sheep tune, Flavor of the Month:

Let's see what kind of flavor I want...
Do I want, vanilla?
Or do I want a taste of chocolate?
Hmmmmm... I want something different, I want somethin slammin'.
What's the slamminest flavor out this month...
Let's see...
Yo black! Hmmmmm, what flavor are you? 


Let's start with the curious case of Antoine Dobson. For those unaware, Antoine Dobson is a young man living in the Lincoln Park projects somewhere in Alabama. An intruder attempted to rape his sister and the local news interviewed the entire family.


From this clip, folks made remixes, bands played the remix, Antoine got him a website, a Twitter account. It went viral. Most interesting though was the mixed response from black folks. Some people were mightily offended that the news put this bandana-wearin', syllable-choppin' negro on blast. Others were highly amused and added "Run tell dat, homeboy" on the end of every sentence. I fell somewhere in between. Antoine spoke his truth as best he could. The only problem came when a random non-Black person asked me about him in the check-out line at Target. I was like - hold up, are all Black people required to speak on the actions of the whole race? I missed that meeting. Antoine Dobson no more represents me than I represent him. And I think we're both happy that way.

Slate Magazine's writer Farhad Manjoo attempted to write a thought-provoking article on "How Black People Use Twitter". The first problem was that it was illustrated with a brown bird rocking a fitted cap and clutching a smart phone. The article attempted to get to the bottom of some popular trending topics. Never you mind that a lot of those topics are generally started by a younger subset of black "youth" who tweet from smartphones. A great breakdown of the article  was over at Black Snob's place last week. The problem with the article is that not only does he paint all Black Twitterati with the same brush but he behaves as though Black people are a curious species to be studied like pet projects for biology extra credit. As referenced by my first link about the "Monolith" above, Alicia from innyvinny.com, took the article and turned it into something witty by creating a range of #browntwitterbirds and the term #tweegros (Negroes who tweet) was spawned. Hilarity.

And finally, Dr. Damn Laura. I actually didn't know Dr. Laura Schlessinger was still on the air. BougieMom put it in perspective when I asked her what she thought about this. She said, "WHo is she and why is she important to me?" Exactly. Anyway, Dr. Laura is still on the air and took the opportunity to drop the N-bomb six times in one show using the time worn argument that black people say it to each other so it's hypocritical for us not to want to hear white people say it to us. Yeah, not a good look. How many diggity-darn times do we have to tell folks - just don't say it. But the worst part of her rant to me was the phrase: 
And what I just heard from Jade is a lot of what I hear from black-think...
I had a minor aneurysm reading that. Just what in the holy hell is "black-think"? To me, the idea that there is a group "black-think" ideology that each and every person included in the race subscribes to makes me absolutely crazy. Seriously? In 2010, we still need to say some of us play chess, some play bidwhist? Some like T.I., some like Tchaikovsky? Someone is still letting a phrase like "black-think" fall out of their mouths? In Public? On a syndicated radio show? Arrgh. Makes me wanna holla, throw up both my hands.

So let me just say it one mo' gin as clearly as I possibly can: Blackness is not a state of mind or a state of being, it's a skin-tone or a genetic marker. You can no more group us all into one pot than you can distinguish raindrops during a torrential downpour. To attempt to do so is futile, serves no one and just reveals an appalling lack of intellect. 

Who can tell me what "black-think" is? Do share your thoughts, feelings, comments on all of the above... the floor is yours.

57 comments:

kimberly billups said...

It does seem like we are all alike, by the definition of others! Stupid? Yeah!

Man's World said...

Points for the Black Sheep reference!
That Antoine Dobson thing cracked me up but of course, you're going to have idiots who see it and think that's "all black people"
To them the difference between the project brother and Barack is that one "speaks so well"
Let's just accept it... there's NO such thing as post-racial.
Now run tell dat!

Pure Choco said...

I will take two scoops of mocha java please!
Someone needs to kick Dr. Laura squarely in the ass.
Black-think? REALLY?!

Keneilwe said...

*coming out of lurker-dom* :-)

It is the same wherever you go. People (read:White people-generalising?? I think not) just feel comfortable putting us in boxes. As it does not require them to engage us and with us. I, for one, feel your mom is right re Dr Laura.

BTW, I find that the "black-think" is always that group of black people that tend to agree with other races on what defines "us". Are they "sell-outs"? No, just people with too much time on their hands and little sense. Plus they always "think" they're better than everybody else, and they are not exactly "black".
They respond well to *ahem* compliemnts such as "you speak so well" etc. SMDH

My thing is if they are such imperious and impeccable sources of information why are they not contributing to the upliftment of their people?

*back into lurker-dom with love from South Africa*

Jason P said...

I'm too through with the Twitter Bird. Done.

baileyqc said...

Wow. 2010 or 1960? Not that much change in 50 years.
Here is my question for the Dr. Laura's of the world. If there's is a "black-think" - what is "white-think" or "brown-think" or "yellow-think"? "Rainbow-think"?

OneChele said...

Thanks for popping out of lurkdom!

Javalicious said...

The Antoine Dobson remixes were epic. But I felt a little sad for him that he didn't seem to catch on that most of the joke was on him?
I've heard of group-think, I didn't realize someone assigned a color to it.

Eye Candy said...

The new design is pretty by the way. I had to reload the page to post my comment but I assume that's what you meant by "glitchy". Anywho... I watched in great amusement as the #browntwitterbird took over my timeline on Twitter. I personally refuse to continue to explain what should be obvious to people.

Myas-mom said...

Like Rev Run said, "Define yourself before others define you." We have to accept that we are such a wonderful and complex race that others, and even our own, are very intrigued with who we are. But we can't let generalities of us define us, no more than any other race should. We are individuals who make up a group, just as whites, Asians, Latinos, etc.

I won't be put in a box! And I reserve the right to be who I am on any given day! Let's see who am I today? A sleepy Black woman whose allergies are giving me the blues...LOL

GrownAzzMan said...

Great post. I will be curious to see if it gets as much heat as your occasional relationship/interpersonal drama ones do.
1) I am through with anyone who thinks that all (insert name of group here) do/think/act/say anything. Done. With. That.
2) Didn't think Antwan whatever his name is was funny. Don't mind if others did but you can stop filling up my inbox, twitter timeline, Facebook newsfeed with him any time now. Thank you. And for those who think he represents me and mine or want to know what I think, see point #1.
3) How black people use twitter. Really?
4) Dr. Laura. I am with Bougiemom. In fact I didn't know Dr. Laura was still alive until she opened her mouth and stupid started drooling out all over the place. What was more offensive to me then the N word usage was her assertion that we Blacks should be all happy now and stop talking about/or opposing racism in America not that a black POTUS was elected. SMDH!

beautifulcurare said...

*spits out cherry soda*

LOL @ "Don't put Baby in a corner"

Alright, scrolling back up to finish reading...

Deb B said...

LOL at don't put baby in a corner!
I just had a "discussion" with a non-Black person in my office who likes to drop a "what up homegirl" into her lingo when talking to me. No ma'am. Do you roll up on Billy-Bob talking about Howdy pardner?
Roll up on Saul with the Mazel Tav?
As you like to say Chele - Don't bring it here.
post racial my ass

Mocha Dude Speaks said...

Can't we all just embrace the neopolitan cone? With a sprinkle of respect on top?

GrownAzzMan said...

^5 on post-racial my ass!

datdudeincali said...

I'll admit I laughed at the Dobson video and then I cringed. Because the news always seems to pick the most "flamboyant" representative in the hood to speak.
Why is someone trying to figure how we tweet? Don't worry about it.
Dr. Laura who?

beautifulcurare said...

When I saw the Antoine Dodson news clip on YouTube, I shook my head and thought "They always find one..." Soon people began remixing and Photoshopping and I couldn't help laughing. Then I asked the question "Did they ever find the intruder? Are the police on the case? A crime was committed, so what is being done about it?" I had to roll my eyes at the fact that all attention was focused on Antoine and not his sister...you know, the one who was attacked?

Ahhhh...the awesomeness of the #BrownTwitterBird...I got a kick out of the many variations...after reading the article, I was annoyed. Why are black people always being studied and our various actions analyzed?! I never see any studies like this regarding other groups, so why us? And the crazy thing is, with all these studies, they'll never grasp our essence...never know what makes us tick. Why? Because we have so many differences! We aren't a monolith! No one is!

Dr. Laura...I will always look at a person with disdain when they want so badly to say the N-word. I don't understand this need that many whites (at least, those who complain about being excluded) have for using that word...why do you want to say it so damn badly?! I am one who wishes the word would disappear and that no one would use it, but that's not gonna happen, so I need "others" to stop complaining about being cussed out, threatened, reprimanded, and whatever else for letting that word spill from their mouths.

As for black-think? It doesn't exist...it's just another way for them to put us in a box...I keep a box cutter on me at all times...

David Chase said...

I work in marketing and I vividly recall the day a consultant came in to help us with a focus group. Not knowing I was in the hallway, he announced that the real money was tapping into "black-think" because "those people" spend money on everything. The problem is there's always a grain of truth in some subset of the stereotypes foisted on us. And yup, he was fired on the spot.

Don't bother looking for post-racism unless you find a way to reprogram people's hearts and minds.

GrownAzzMan said...

LOL @ box cutter...

BrendaKay51 said...

Would someone...anyone care to explain to me what the term "post racial" actually means? From my limited vantage point, I actually feel as if 'the racial atmosphere" has gotten worse...

thinklikeRiley said...

I can't even say nuthin' snarky bout this one. Hot fiyah truth tellin' today.
Respect.

GrownAzzMan said...

BrendaKay51, I am not sure if "the racial atmosphere" has gotten worse. I think there is just more light shining on it now. As for what "post racial" means someone else with have to help you. I am working on something easier, trying to understand Chinese.

OneChele said...

Supposedly with the election of Barack Obama, America moved beyond racism... thus post-racial. And if you believe that, I have Gulf Coast shrimp to sell you :-/

All Honey said...

Thanks, now the song is stuck in my head.
Here's a thought - why not lock Antoine and Dr. Laura in a room together for 72 hours and tell them to tweet the experience - now that's article worthy.

All Honey said...

Anytime I hear the phrase "those people" I fight the urge to pipe in some Public Enemy.

All Honey said...

I'm more of a butter pecan girl myself.

JustPassingBy said...

Even the title of that article "How Black People Use Twitter" is slapworthy. Believe me if someone wrote on article "Why White People are Clueless" there would be massive uproar and shouts of reverse racism.

Troy said...

Antoine was amusing the first 42 times it was sent to me plus remixes but remakes plus spoofs. Enough already. Are you seriously telling me that someone named Farhad Manjoo couldn't pull some racial sensitivity out of his ass? Maybe if Tyrone Jackson writes an article on How People of Middle Eastern/Indian descent Tweet with a picture of a brown bird in a turban? And because I've run out of intelligent black-think stuff to say, let me just add for Dr. Laura - Think Deez.

Myas-mom said...

Beautiful they are always studying us because as I said in my comment, we are wonderful and complex. But the reason they can't understand us is because they insist on studying us in "the box". Waste of time!

LMAO at box cutter!

Myas-mom said...

LMAO at trying to understand Chinese!

I agree, I don't know that it's gotten worse, or just more noticeable. But there maybe a little fear out there with all "yall" running around talkin bout "Yes We Can!".

rozb said...

I would venture to say that those of Dr. Laura's ilk are a party to "jack-ass think". She is an irritation like a rash on the beltline or a stray eyelash. She has the same mentality as the O'Reilleys, Becks, Limbaughs, and Hannitys of the world, and they appeal to their base - folks who do limited research (if at all) rely on one source for information, and stay in one tiny frame of mind, expecting the world to conform to them.

I was also thrown by her "Don't NAACP me!" rant. Really? Seems more like a statement meant to get somebody riled up - not working here.

Dr. Laura is dull, outmoded, ignorant, mildly distracting, and irrelevant. So are white folks who are trying to understand Black people like a science experiment. Rather than analyzing how I am able to speak, act, and eat so well in public, they need to be worrying about how I was able to get that corner office with a window before they could get out of the cubicle.

Myas-mom said...

You go girl with your corner office!!!

EvolvingElle said...

First, love the new design! Second, I don't believe a thing called "black-think" exists, but if it does, I would like to serve on the committee, as I'm sure no one else thinks like I do and can not speak on my behalf. In regards to Dr. Laura (and I type the abbreviation for "doctor" loosely), she just gave bad advice and used that opportunity to let anybody listening know how she really feels. BougieMom has a great point; Dr. Laura has no significance in my life. I can say, she gave horrible advice and was VERY disrespectful to a woman that had a legitimate problem and thought she could go to this woman and get sound advice. I think once non-black people realize our backgrounds are vast and wide, just as theirs are, is when they'll stop lumping us together in a conglomerate.

GrownAzzMan said...

You can fry those gulf coast shrimp quickly too. They come with their own oil.

GrownAzzMan said...

I don't know what made me laugh harder, the twitter bird in a turban or 'Think Deez'. LMBAO!

OneChele said...

No you did not say Tyrone Jackson...

jake said...

Addressing the Dr. Laura shiggity (thanks for the word Chele), I grew up around a diverse group of people and was told from a young age -you can say it if you want to, prepare to get your ass kicked, repeatedly - everybody has a name given to them at birth, I'll stick with that

Suzie S said...

It's similar to the failure of CNN's Black in America, Latino in America and Gay in America - you can't encompass the experience and any attempt to do so falls short.

BlackestBerry said...

This one spoke to me a little bit;

Grace said...

LMAO at Mazel Tov!

Grace said...

Cookies and cream - I'm equal opportunity

LikeLena said...

I have got to print this and have copies mysteriously show up on some co-workers' desks.

Evansaw said...

Antoine Dobson? "Nuff said about him.
Working with White Americans mostly over the age of 65 on a daily, I can truly say the majority of them have no idea how to actually have a conservsation with a person of color, let alone understand anything about them . The only thing that needs to understood is that we all bleed red blood. People never want to try to understand something that threatens them . Until we all refuse to accept this behavior in people, they will continue to "box"us up.

Rob said...

My dad says we all bleed red and spend green - all that matters.

MidwestDominicana said...

I think he meant Tyrone Leroy Jenkins

OneChele said...

Otherwise known as Ty-Jeezy?

Islandista said...

The idea of 'black think' is simply ludicrous because (drumroll) ... African-Americans are not the only black people in the world! Shoot, they're not even the only blacks in the Western Hemisphere or even the only black people living in the United States.

I'm a black Caribbean woman and some aspects of African-American culture are as baffling and mysterious to me as they are to white people.

And I'm sure it is the other way around. I like calypso music and I love cricket - as in the sport, not the insect.

See? Bet you're scratching your heads at that. But there walk among you cricket-loving black folks who share a similar history (slavery), look pretty similar (i.e. of West/South African heritage) and even have similar last names and language (if we're from the English-speaking Caribbean) but that is essentially where the similarities end.

So that just shows up the ludicrousness of it.

OneChele said...

Well, you've found a home. My father was West Indian and we heard a lot of Calypso and saw a lot of cricket, ate a lot of peas and rice. ;-)

Karen Caffee said...

A couple of thoughts from what will be included in a Katrina revisit on my blog.
As far as sister-girl asking Dr. Laura for advice: why on earth would you ask a conservative physiologist who earned her doctorate studying rats for advice on living in an interracial existence? *Doomed to fail on all levels*

People have had problems with intelligent, articulate, confident and capable black men and women for so long, and are going to keep having problems in the future. They had extreme problems with black athletes as well, and still do to some extent (methinks in proportion to wealth or extracurriculars). BUT we can - individually and collectively – help them to understand that we are more than one boxfull by continuing to handle our business, and by convincing our brothers and sisters that there is no shame to 1) being able to hold a conversation in mainstream English, 2) dress without sags, guts, cleavage and overdone bling (real or swap meet variety), 3) work and interact with people from other races, 4) follow journalists, government agencies and entrepreneurs on our Twitter timeline, study world history and OUR history, take classes or go for a degree, study music and composition instead of rap videos, read an etiquette book, but most importantly, BELIEVE that you belong wherever you are if you are handling your business!

Hidi said...

"Black-think": All I can say someone decided to get a little creative...not really 0_0

@Antoine: I am sorry I did laugh at first even though a serious crime occur but it's the way you said it. Please realize people are laughing at you not with you which is sad.

"We are not a monolith": I have said this so many times as a result my throat hurt. :( I don't get it. This is something I struggle with growing up because people assumed that because I'm black I knew and ate peach cobbler, gumbo etc. NO! ok. geesh. My people are from Central America. SMH

YardieChicie said...

I'll adhere to an all-encompassing definition of blackness for every black person on the planet after, and only after, the same is done for white people. No one asks one white person what they think about the actions of another in the news, but people of colour as supposed to know AND have an opinion on shiggity that Pookie and Nem committed- no matter where they're from.

By the way, has Glen Beck given a definition for 'white culture' as yet?

maureen palmer said...

Chele, you said better than I can. I was having a conversation with someone about Afghanistan/Pakistan/India difficult history and this man had the nerve to say you are different from "them" (I'm original from Kenya and have spent the same amount of time in U.S as I did in KE). you bet your last dime, that was the end of the conversation. WTH. I know AA who is getting his Phd in A.I & one who is doing his thesis on hip hop, now that is the avant garde that black folks come in.

I went to see to Tony Rock comedy show over the wknd and here is his thought as to why white folks should not use the N word, white folks saying things that black folks can't say like " excuse police officer".

maureen palmer said...

I guess these folks have not seen T-party rally.

BrendaKay51 said...

Thank you GrownMan ~ I believe you are absolutely right. Thanks to the internet, twitter, FB, etc. ~ things that TV or print media previously chose to selectively ignore, is now instantly available for the world to see.

By the way, if you think Chinese is difficult, try learning Danish! 8-/

Myas-mom said...

Amen to that!

"real or swap meet variety"? Had to laugh at that one!

This Time Now said...

Why they chose Soledad O'Brien to host that is beyond me. Sure, her mother is Cuban but she's so far removed from Black America or the so-called Black experience she needs a P.O.Box. I knew that CNN Black in America reportage was going to be useless. Our myriad of experiences could never fit into some T.V. special.

Paul on Ice said...

Okay, I see you stepping the blog game up. I haven't been around for long but this is the first bit of social commentary I've read from you. Well done.
Blackness is not a state of mind or a state of being, it's a skin-tone or a genetic marker. Well that's it right there. Game, set, match.

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