Hip Hop Leaders: Jesse Jackson’s Time Up | RaceWire
1 - This is the reason why Season 1 of the Real World was the shit and they should have stopped there: Kevin Powell is running for Congress!
2 - I wonder if Powell and Nas, as the 'new' faces of black activism/accountability, are what folks think of when they deflect the conversation away from white privilege with 'when are black people going to start taking responsibility' waah waah waah whine whine whine?
Meaning, I think folks have a different picture in mind when they start saying, before we start unpacking white privilege, black folks should get their act together. (See Bill Cosby, whose talks about what's affecting various black communities never addresses structural issues.)
When they say 'get their act together' what are they talking about?
In my opinion, I think they're talking about conformity to a bourgeois/middle class identity. (And, no, I'm not talking about 'talking white.') I'm talking about the not so subtle codes that comprise middle class ideology: heterosexual normativity, 'bootstrap'/rampant individualism mythology, appropriate Judeo-Christian religious conformity (without any hint of liberation theology to it, and don't even think about being a part of the Nation), law and order obedience and a firm belief in, and support of, capitalism and its tools.
While middle class ideology has such an unshakeable belief in the Self it forgets that the Self comes handily wrapped in a colored skin. Middle class ideology, unfortunately, assumes we're all white. It is, in fact, built on the premise of white skin privilege and the access that white supremacy can bestow.
Now, turning this lens briefly to myself, I won't say that I, a brown woman, don't faintly resemble what I've just described. However, I am not unaware of niggling and persistent social structures that act as barriers for everyone to achieve the middle class dream. Let's call one such social barrier, oh, INSTITUTIONAL RACISM. If we begin to look at the world through this lens (and it's difficult and burdensome to do so because you start realizing that there is a lot of problematic shit all around you), then you begin to see (white) middle class ideology as a luxurious myth that's available to some people but not really to all, despite whatever aspiration they might have toward it.
I'm wandering a little. Let me go back to the RaceWire post, showing two very different young black men addressing black political identity and agency in different ways. Actually, there are 3 black men here:
Kevin Powell, Gen X writer, activist and candidate for public office. He is progressive, inclusive and looks good in a suit. He, presumably (and because I remember my Real World 1), listens to hip hop and is 'down.' Is he what black responsibility looks like?
NAS, hip hop artist and someone I'd never heard of before a month ago. (Shrug. I never liked carrying that black card, anyway.) His latest album was previously titled the N-word and he, uh, apparently has some strong opinions about the direction of his community:
"His time is up. All you old n---as, time is up. We heard your voice, we saw your marching, we heard your sermons. We don't wanna hear that sh-- no more. It's a new day. It's a new voice. I'm here now. We don't need Jesse; I'm here. I got this. We got Barack, we got David Banners and Young Jeezys. We're the voice now. It's no more Jesse. Sorry. Goodbye. You ain't helping nobody in the 'hood. That's the bottom line. Goodbye, Jesse. Bye!"
Is Nas black responsibility?
And the aforementioned Jesse Jackson, Sr., bogeyman for white conservatives and FOX News, the blurter of bigoted epithets and iambic pentameter-spouting symbol of a (bygone?) civil rights era. Likes to march a lot. We've already seen what Jesse has to offer. (Poor Jesse.)
I guess I'm asking if folks - the folks being asked in all these polls about their comfort with a black president and being asked if racism was really over and being asked what needs to happen for racism to go away without being asked about their own white privilege - would really want to see black self-empowerment and self-determination if that same empowerment was really politicized, conscious and aware that the myth of middle class aspiration isn't enough if you don't address our country's institutionalized race and ethnicity issues, among our other issues.
(Like upended dominoes covering a floor, one toppled piece must impact others.)
I mean, if there was a black leader leading a movement that really understood intersectionality and not just accumulating or accommodating power (like Jackson or Sharpton, easy targets, both of them), wouldn't that mean serious critiques of, and serious work against, our current power structure would have to take place? And wouldn't that mean that those who benefit from that power structure - those who are primarily privileged by it - are also implicated in that critique?
I guess I wonder if people really know what they're asking for when they call for a 'responsible' black community because, to me, a responsible black community is one that's grounded in politics, history and tradition - and its own interests, not necessarily the interests of the larger society. I'm not sure if this means a complete inward consideration, a kind of community self-hibernation while we work to change things, or something not so scary for other folks.
(Which reminds me of something my friend Prof. A- would say to me: 'Girl, there ain't nothing scarier than a black man with a degree.')
Responsibility perhaps isn't what people think it is. (And let's face it; our country does not have the greatest track record dealing with communities of color exercising self-determination, know what I mean?) For whom is the black community responsible? To whom or what is the black community, or the various black communities that exist, responsible? From where I sit, it's not the folks who want us to get our act together before addressing theirs.
I don't know. I'm just asking questions.