Sunday, 28 February 2010

Discussions in Black History Month: On being the "bigger person"

I was bullied from about my 4th year in primary school until my last year in secondary school. Mostly I was just ostracized, but there were times when it got physical. It got so bad at one point that I had to spend my lunch-hours in a classroom to prevent the fights from starting. 

Friday, 26 February 2010

Discussions in Black History Month: Do we need a Black Agenda?

A fellow named Tavis Smiley is looking to hold Obama and numerous other black elites' feet to the fire for not pushing for a black agenda. LINK

As far as responses go, I can't really do better than Ta-Nehisi Coates. He writes:

I don't know what a "black agenda" is. I can think of very few policies which I would say are good for black people, but aren't good for most of America. I think Tavis would agree. (His site says "a black agenda is an American agenda." But that only raises another question: why would we calling it (sic) a "black agenda?" Surely changing the way we approach incarceration would help black men, but were there no black men in this country, we still would do well to think about how we incarcerate people.

I'm at a loss to see what we gain by simplistically racializing problems that may well have a racial component, but aren't wholly, and in many cases even mainly, racial problems. To be clear that component should be called out. But it seems you implicitly alienate allies when you claim that broad problems are the property of specific communities.

Moreover, you do the work of your adversaries. Nothing would please them more than for America to think of incarceration as a "black problem" to be addressed by a "black agenda." People hear "black issue" and they feel relieved--"Oh well, it ain't my problem." Except that it is. And we should make them aware that it is.
Yes, it definitely strikes me as poor strategy. Similar to my point in this post you're more likely to achieve your policy goals if you align the interests of a broad coalition, or at the very least do not mobilise significant opposition.  Emotionally it can be a tough sell, for example my girl N said "Why do we have to be the bigger people?" "Why isn't it enough to just talk about American history and outline the legitimate reasons for policies that benefit black people? Why can't we point to past wrongs and say that we are working for policies of corrective justice?"

Again, I get it. Doing things like avoiding the word "welfare" is not a direct challenge to the prejudiced thinking that changes the meaning of "welfare" to something like "taking money from hard working whites and giving it to shiftless blacks". However I would argue that if the goal is policy that benefits ordinary black people, being mindful of the biases, fears and interests of potential opponents and acting accordingly is not weakness.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Discussions in Black History Month: Sex and Community

It's a bit late in the day really considering that Black History Month is almost over, but I've had a few thoughts on themes of social justice, and community development that I might want to get out of my head and onto the blog in the next week or so.

My first post in this vein touches on the consistently emotive subject of interracial dating. I've a particular antipathy to the arguments used to cast aspersions on the authenticity of those who profess a desire to see black people succeed and their respective black communities develop, while having a non-black partner. While there are a few variations, the underlying premise is that a non-black partner is a sign of a lack of self-love or love for the black community. If one were really desirous of black success, one would select a black partner.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

It's been a while

I've been putting my blogging on the back burner for a while. This has been for a number of reasons, mainly emotional. My relationship with blogging is a little strange. I write, but I occasionally look at blogging negatively. My feeling is that to blog, one must have the belief that what one has to say is interesting enough for other people to take the time to read. I've always had a hard time believing this of myself. I thought that I wanted to write a novel, but then I read books like The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, and The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz and decided I had nothing to say that they had not said already, and in an immeasurably superior fashion. Researching, analysing and writing is a lot of work, and lately I've not been inclined to do any work that doesn't help me pay my bills or look like it will lead to an opportunity to do so.