[eDebate] The Hate that Hate that Hate Produced
Sun Apr 13 09:42:46 CDT 2008
Hello debate community,
We've reached that crossroads that history tells us we would inevitably reach. It's a crossroads that occurred at the end of slavery. It's a crossroads that occurred at the end of the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement, and every other social justice movement. After receiving a couple of notes from what I assume to be young white students, "turned off" and "shut down" by my communication styles in general, and in particular the "pissing contests in general", it requires me to critically interrogate my choices. My recent exchange with Josh is the first time that I pissed first, with the past matches all being times when I only pissed in response to aggressive posts. And the costs for that choice perhaps is the end of inter cultural communication, at least lead by me. The call is now for me to apologize: creating a difficult situation for me. That apology in this case has now become a precondition to folks willingness to continue engaging me.
And I can't help but wonder a few things? What happened in the earlier exchanges where others pissed first, where the standards placed on their engagement seen as the same by the white majority? Did they receive emails calling for them to apologize to me? Or did they receive threats that their messages would no longer be received if they didn't apologize to me? Is there never a justification for the minority voice, in their efforts to build coalitions with the majority, to communicate in ways that don't perhaps validate the sensibilities of the majority? In other words, does the white majority in every instance dictate how I must engage, meaning that no matter if I think I'm right or not, I must make the ongoing sacrifice of my beliefs? While for many of you, the decision to "turn off" or "shut down" if I don't apologize is easy, for me, this question is much more complicated than that.
I know that I speak to two major audiences when I invoke conversations about my Blackness: those who agree and those who disagree. One backchannel referred to one group as "the choir", recognizing that if I target my advocacy for them it means nothing, since they already agree with my point. That my choice should be to communicate with the "other side", those that disagree or are eager to be persuaded enough to agree. And to them, my recent attack on Josh was unwarranted and violated the terms previously set up for discussion. The note says that I alone set up those terms, but is that really true? Is it even possible for a Black man to set the terms of conditions for engagement on a listserv of 890 people (my numbers were old and inaccurate) where the overwhelming majority are white? I wonder how many of you believe that I have the power to dictate the terms of engagement on this list? Clearly, his note, announcing that my choice to attack Josh, justifies disengagement of the majority only demonstrates that I don't have the privilege or luxury of dictating the terms that we will engage.
But as I said in one of the more recent posts, there is a purpose to stand with, and fight for the "choir": Malcolm understood the importance of fighting perceptions of inferiority which translate into justifications for white superiority. You see, if I give in to Josh's call for an apology, if I really don't feel it's justified, then I'm also sending a signal to those labeled inferior in this community, like those who will a championship but aren't treated on the same playing field of respect with others who have won their championships in the majority expected way, that I'm inferior to Josh. That Josh is capable of dictating the terms of engagement. Apologize or we won't listen anymore is a threat, and sadly, deploying it now ignores all the times I have in this discussion over the last four days respectfully engaged, ignores the evolutions of Louisville's debate strategy that demonstrate we have listened and tried to accommodate the white majority (unsuccessfully for the most part I might add), it ignores the differences in cultural communication that embrace my style as fair, ethical, and legitimate. So, the decision to apologize is so much larger for me, than what many of you feel. So before making that decision, I will continue to use my critical process of reflection, in an effort to determine whether or not I should apologize. And let's be clear: the last two posts I've received are powerful where young students are expressing their desire to engage and continue the conversation, but they are struggling with my choices of how I engage. I appreciate their willingness to call for me to communicate in ways that allow them to comfortably listen, but I hope and pray that one day they will be able to appreciate the difficult crossroads their call creates for me as well.
Josh's anger at my tone did not occur in a vacuum devoid of historical context. My anger at Josh's argument did not occur in a vacuum devoid of historical context. So my process of reflection always considers the historical context that has created the disparities, the feelings, and the logical thoughts about contemporary Black-white race relations. So it's there I try and contextualize my conscious decision to treat Josh with disrespect. Sista Souljah once made a record called "The Hate that Hate Produced", but I think her theory falls short so I've remixed it, adding another layer, another era of hate to her equation.
The 3rd Level of Hate
Beginning as early as the end of the Black Power movement, the time of nationwide protests perhaps to as late as the middle 1980's, conservative whites began to call for the end of racial dialogue and strategies to "fix" the race problem. White liberals goodwill promotion of theories like color-blindness and the goal of moving away from identity constructions in ways that produced the oppression of the past became popular as well. Taken together, one of the few areas where liberals and conservatives found a common home was in theories of race. Although each had a different motivation, the functional result was the same. The anger against those invoking racial dialogue and racial double standards has dramatically increased in the last decade. So much so, that white use of the N-word has escalated through challenges of the Black use of the term, O'bama's forced choice to run his campaign devoid of any real connection to Black people, lest he be labeled, the "Black candidate", and even Towson's efforts to say a white aesthetic lives in policy debate in 2008, are all examples of a society that would prefer the races embrace the ideal, leaving race conscious solutions to problems on the sidelines. My anger towards Josh was I'll concede, an attempt by me at a double standard, which is where his anger comes from, perhaps justifiably. My willingness to anger Josh by attacking him personally for the argument he made was what I perceived as a threat to the progress made to open a space to discuss racial change. But's that takes us to...
The 2nd Level of Hate
I suspect that Black anger towards their condition, and the powerlessness faced in light of slavery and segregation and the ongoing dehumanization process they faced-began as earlier as 1619 when the first slave ship made it's way through the Middle Passage. But Blacks couldn't publicly or freely show that anger. They couldn't when America was colonies, they couldn't when we became the United States of America, with a constitution that called for freedom of speech, they couldn't when they were classified as 3/5's of a person, they couldn't after the Emancipation Proclamation, they couldn't when relegated to Negro Leagues or street basketball courts, and they couldn't when educated in segregated schools. That's a long time of holding those emotions inside.
Perhaps the first inkling of public Black anger was the Black nationalist leanings of DuBois, but even then it was reserved and it generally followed white protocol, , as when HBCU's created intercollegiate debate teams and faced off against white audiences and opponents. But the first true expressions of Black anger were revealed during the Civil Rights Movement, exploded into the Black Power Movement, and unproductively blew up in the riots and racial unrest of the 1960's. White America's response to that, was to leave for the suburbs.
So Black anger, has rarely if ever made much difference to whites because they have had, and do have the power and privilege to "just leave." So while very subtle, and very well hidden, a clear call for diverting the current discussion that "we" had worked so hard to achieve, years and decades to get to this point of the last four days, was responded to with extreme anger and hostility by me. I felt and still feel that it was an intention effort at shifting the agenda, lacking any evidence for the central claim he made. Josh's call was to "leave" the discussion presented in a subtle way. My anger was an over the top call to say, "DON'T TRY TO TAKE THIS MOMENT FROM US! WE EARNED THE RIGHT TO HAVE THIS DISCUSSION! AND I WON'T LET YOU TAKE IT AWAY using debate tricks not grounded in truthful evidence.
I know that most whites will never see my actions as justified and I know that privilege is the reason. Those who understand what it means to be Black know it's pain we feel all the time, and a fight we have all the time. Let's talk broader diversity; who is Black; the real issues Blacks leave can be reduced to one thing: travel; socio-economics; identity politics; let's get rid of identity; your anger threatens me; this is the wrong forum; --those are the 8 years of white engagement of the issue of Blackness in debate since Louisville began it's quest to have a true racial dialogue in this, the most liberal community, armed with the most willing critical thinkers I can find. And if the hearing and ability to honestly and openly discuss these issues in ways to attempt to create a better world for all of us can't seriously happen here, where can it happen?
So I expressed my anger in ways that most of you found unproductive and inconsistent with my own call for dialogue. Fair enough.
The 1st Level of Hate
The ancestors of the majority of people in this community are SOLELY and directly responsible for the first level and the devastation it caused. Not only on the Black community, but on indigenous Americans, Asians, Latino/a's, gays, and women (given the gender trouble thread I post this at my own risk :-). The number of lives taken are tragic and massive enough, but it still pales compared to the amount of psychological, emotional, spiritual, toll that institutional supremacy took on every minority group encompassing generations of people. And the damage that the construction of these identities for the purpose of destroying anything that looked or acted different from the norm, defined as European white males, is beyond imagine. My great great great grandmother being raped by a train conductor brought white America into my Black home, not by choice. My great grandfather on the other side, choose to marry a white women and then hid the fact for many years by "passing", to avoid persecution. Some of you younger folks may not get it: my parent's lived through segregation and the beginning of integration, and contrary to rewritten sanitized versions of history, the end of Civil Rights did not magically create a better climate for Blacks in America. The stories of my Mother as one of the first Black teacher in Hammond, Indiana make the backlash against Towson look like playtime.
Josh's anger towards my double standards in the rules of engagement, grows out of a hatred for allowing differential treatment. He has an expectation that we treat each other the same, equally. But that expectation ignores the first level of hate was never really dealt with. My anger grows from a white world that wants so badly to move past the first level, trying to act like we've taken care of it, and even those with the honest hearts who want to engage it, struggle to see how their current privileges maintain an unequal playing field when they decide to enforce those standards of equality. The justification for my double standards is the lack of privilege that I have to keep the discussion moving forward because a white majority can divert it or leave whenever they want with little or no cost. So when the white world enforces their conditions for engagement, without realizing the dehumanizing nature of those prescriptions because they ignore the cultural differences created from the first level of hate that has yet to be fairly and equitably resolved, an era that resulted in the privileges that allowed whites the condition to set the privileges of my engagement in the first place, I am put in the most amazing double bind. Give in and turn my back on Deven yet again, who knows the playing field isn't level and the call for me to stand down isn't fair (that's where his anger comes from) or is grounded in a white privilege that sets the terms for my engagement in the first place OR not give in, and face the reality that at any point, at any time this conversation is over, because whites have the ultimate privilege of walking away, just like the riots and turbulence of the sixties.
Until this community sees that it's theories of identity and colorblindness and sameness have one big problem: they ignore all of the problems created by the construction of identity and the prerequisite that society must fix them first, before enforcing any standards of equality. You must fix the underlying reasons that I'm angry before you require me to be "like Josh". You must fix the socio-economic disparities that have a racial component before you can expect Blacks to live more similar lives in terms of education, resources, etc. You must fix the contemporary stereotypes that fail to seriously consider "how we got there", instead just condemning the behavior. All of this is going to require a lot more compassion, love, and patience by whites. Continuing to set and create standards of behavior on Blacks isn't going to fix the problem, because it ignores the damage that has been done that has never been repaired. Hundreds of years aka generations of abuse can't be fixed in a moment, or a day, or a year, or a decade or several. Hundreds of years of abuse likely takes the same time to correct. Forty years of exclusion of Blacks in debate will likely take forty years to correct. And if correction doesn't start with a rebuilding of the foundation this time including those Black perspectives, nothing will really change. And if compassion and efforts to understand the "double standards" by thinking about how Blacks got to their "state of mind" and how whites got to theirs are all important steps before one starts setting conditions on the other.
A wise white man, helped me to understand the logic of the double standards in a way that I never did before. He said, white expectations today for equal treatment and sameness don't logically make sense. His example was that both cancer and chemotherapy hurt the body, but no one would say that we shouldn't use chemotherapy to counter the effects of cancer. Instead of holding tightly to utopian theories of identity construction that when deployed serve to eliminate my ability to fix the problems that have been created, why not try to understand that after literally hundreds of years of using identity to destroy people, it will require LENGTHY chemotherapy to counteract that, and part of that chemo is to understand why unequal treatment and double standards are needed to unravel the consequences of identity, before we can start enforcing a world that stops constructing identity.
I'm not sure I've been very eloquent on this. It's complicated and tough to communicate. I am sure that I'm comfortable with how I negotiate the difficult crossroads of Black-white race relations, in the same way Tria and Tiffany were comfortable with letting white women in the community know that I shouldn't apologize for my use of gendered language, I have to say the same to Josh. If that means that I'm perceived as someone who is incapable of reflexive thought so be it. My response is whether you have the privilege of not having to be very reflexive when thinking about my choices. And I have a responsibility to the Black perspective and this decision is part of it. Take care and have a great day,
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