Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"Fail to walk the air"

Something really freaking smart from Ta-Nahesi Coates:

In the arena of racial progress, I know of only a few more destructive forces, than the black pathology disciples, the coterie of writers, editors, scholars and pundits who see black folks mainly as pure-bred descendants of slaves, and the worse end of a gaggle of socio-economic data. This isn't a left-right deal. The theory of the black automaton programmed simply by oppression, on the left, or dysfunctional culture, on the right, leaves no room for Rakim, for Zora Neal Hurston, for my woman's clear, beautiful skin, for actual humanity.

This is why neither lefties nor righties can get a handle on this blacks and gay marriage thing. Instead of asking how groups who've been oppressed have traditionally behaved toward other groups under duress, they posit a black version of the madonna/whore complex, in which blacks are supposed to be this font of American liberalism, and are ripped when we don't live up to that standard. It's a trip. This country was built by white people fleeing oppression. Yet to hear these fools tell it, you'd think that experience stopped them from slaughtering the Indians and enslaving blacks.

And therein is the ultimate upshot of reducing black humanity--it ultimately reduces white humanity. It pretends that whites are always perfectly rational, and that their interactions with race aren't complicated and contradictory. Dig's Arana implicit proposition, for instance, that there is some pure strain monoracial strain of black--or even white--and how it basically eradicates one of the great unspoken crimes of slavery and Jim Crow--the widespread rape of black women. Once you understand your own fraility, your own contradictory nature, once you understand (to take it back to Baraka) that you yourself are beautiful though you "sometimes fail to walk the air," once you get your own flawed genius, you'll understand ours. Because in the end, there is no fundamental difference.

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