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Monday, January 30, 2012

Internal Conflict

Please welcome guest blogger, Chris Sunami. Chris is a philosopher and the author of Hero for ChristFind more of his writings on his blog, Yes and Other Answers

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato said that every city with a wide gap between the rich and the poor was really two cities, a rich city and a poor city, coexisting, but always on the verge of internal war. For a long time in this country, the story of race has really been the story of the wealthy versus the poor; and the color of people's skins has been the most convenient of weapons in that war. Under the rule of divide and conquer, poor whites and poor blacks have historically been set at each others throats, an effective way to prevent any unfolding of the natural unity of interests of the poor.

The underlying inequality of the system was this: a poor white always had an avenue to upward mobility. She might have to suppress her accent, change her wardrobe, and deny her origins, but with enough effort she could disappear without trace into middle-class America, as long as she was willing to give up any and all identification with the poor. This was not an option available to a black person. A black person could always be identified at a glance by the color of her skin. The stereotypes of race and poverty would follow her always, without fail. At most she could hope to be treated as an exception to the rule.

Recently, there has been a true sea-change in the beliefs and attitudes of the generation on the cusp of maturity, but it has neither been as simple nor as uniformly positive as many would like to believe. In today's middle-class, black skin color has become normalized. Being darker-skinned is no longer something of particular importance to many middle-class youth. Yet at the same time, black culture, particularly as associated with poverty, has been demonized.
The code words are simple and consistent --usually "Gangsters" (or "Gangsta Rappers") and "Thugs." This mostly means young, low-income African-American males, who are automatically assumed to be stupid, criminal-minded, violent, crude, misogynistic and dangerous. It is often used, however, as a catch-all for black culture in general. Surprisingly, these same terms are often found, with derogatory implications intact, on the lips of black people themselves. The once legendary unity of the black community has seemingly been shattered.

The divorce was perhaps first made public in black comedian Chris Rock's infamous piece "Black People versus N______s." The refrain of that bit went like this: "I love black people, but I hate n------s." The basic idea was that "black people" were good, rational people--with middle class values. "N----s" were the idiots who kept messing things up with their ghettoish ways. The underlying message was that as a person with dark skin you had a choice of which you wanted to be, a "black person" or a "n-----".

It seems as though Americans at large--both black and white--have bought into Rock's idea in a big way. In essence, black people in today's America now have the same choice available to them as the poor white person. As a black person, you can move upwards and be embraced by middle-class America. The only price of admission is that you deny, betray and forswear your every allegiance with the poor.

See Also:
Racism in Academic AdmissionsFriday Round Up (01/27/12) <-- Several links that relate to Chris's post

1 comment:

  1. "Black people today now have the same choice available to them as the poor white person" hmm...Really?


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