When the New York Times published a story on the punishing effects of racism on Black men, I responded with a story about “What Black Men Need Right Now from America.”
And wouldn’t you know it, I got responses that said the issue is Black people.
Too many times have I heard ‘Black culture’ is the problem with the Black community. Even Black people will sing these sunken songs. From Black people, and other people of color, this is ignorance.
We hear this talk in the hush up tones of respectability politics that blames and shames Black culture. Those who self-hate and have internalized racism also blame and shame Black culture.
But from white people, this argument is the ultimate blame the victim tactic and abdication of responsibility and accountability.
What they call ‘culture’ I call consequence.
Now, of course, Black people aren’t a monolith. But, when people start to point fingers they shouldn’t point them at us first or alone.
I’m not saying personal responsibility means nothing. I’m not saying Black people are helpless, that’s not the case.
I’m saying when people blame the culture without the causes it’s shallow and stupid. Because just about everything we find in Black culture is a consequence to racism and white supremacy. And, there are good and bad consequences.
America makes much of Black culture in the fire of racism, white supremacy, and segregation. From music to food to style, it’s all connected.
Our culture is a response or remedy to racism. Ta-Nehisi Coates, in his essay “My President was Black,” says it this way:
“Black culture serves as a balm for such traumas [from racism] and even a means to resist them…If black racial identity speaks to all the things done to people of African ancestry, black cultural identity was created in response to them.”
And besides culture, people want to argue that there’s something wrong with our genes.
Well, if that’s the case, we have to look at racism again.
A study featured in the Economist article “How Stress Echoes Down Generations: Changes to Sperm May Transmit Epigenetic Changes to Children” has findings that fascinate me.
The study examined the effect of stress on rats. And the study found that the stress the rats experienced in one generation were visible in the third generation.
The story in the Economist validates Dr. Joy Degruy’s theory of post-traumatic slave syndrome.
Dr. Degruy’s research suggests that today we may experience the effects of the trauma our ancestors bore. And we also know this trauma isn’t in the simple past tense. It’s racism then and racism now that we still feel and face.
Racism is the link in nearly every gap in a stat for Black people.
And, according to Stanford University researchers, even if a person believes they are being stereotyped it can create a harmful response and resulting behaviors. The Stanford researchers published a piece with their insights, “Stereotyping Makes People More Likely to Behave Badly.”
And we must recognize these detrimental effects because institutional and individual racism are that serious and consequential to people.
So, no, we aren’t race-baiters or overly focused on racism. We know that white people invented this racism, and it’s despicable how many now want to claim it’s all imaginary and invisible.
But really, racism is indivisible from the Black experience in America.
America makes a daily pledge of allegiance to racism it has yet to renounce. And it’s racism that prevents liberty and justice for all.
First, end racism and make holistic reparations, and then I can say liberty and justice for all.
In his essay, the “Case for Reparations,” Ta-Nehisi Coates says you can’t stab a person 10 times with a knife and then drop the knife and think the healing begins the moment the knife was dropped.
Well, in a sense the damage has been done but we can’t blame the person who was cut for the blood.
And yet, too many people assume Black culture is inherently pathological without a look at the true sources.
I say it’s racism. The world has yet to see what the Black experience in America looks like without racism. We are still waiting and working with resolve to see systemic and individual racism dissolve.
So, I refuse to allow people to get away with racism or get away from racism. It’s racism that made race. So, it’s racism that forces and forges a cultural response. Let the world fix its racism problem, because that’s the real problem Black people have.
And, if someone can’t see that then they are a part of the problem of racism. Don’t be a part of the problem of racism. Don’t you think we have enough of that problem?
We need more people to put their fingers down and get to work in the fight against racism.
You are for us or you are against us, people are one or the other. And I say, there is no middle ground because the middle ground is a middle finger.
We need fingers to get the hell out of the way. And, most of all, we don’t need fingers at us.
We need fingers for us.