Sunday, June 14, 2015

Baby Got Black!

In the 1986 movie Soul Man, C. Thomas Howell’s character applied to and was accepted to Harvard Law School, but when his rich dad decided not to pay his tuition, he applied for and received a scholarship – for African-Americans Only.  Changing his appearance to look Black, he met and fell in love with a real African-American (well technically, mixed race because there was no way someone who was predominantly Black was going to be cast for that role – that’s what women like Rae Dawn Chong are for).  When he found out that she was the original candidate for the scholarship and had to work as a waitress to support herself and her son, he eventually came clean and repaid the funds he fraudulently received.

Call me naïve, but that was one of my favorite movies.  At 17, I was not offended by the concept of the movie.  Today, I still would not be offended because movies are supposed to make us think, are supposed to entertain us, are supposed to imitate life.  And the idea of someone pretending to be Black instead of the other way around for personal gain is more funny than offensive in my humble opinion. 

Therefore when I heard of Rachel Dolezal, I couldn’t help but see the humor in it all.  She is the 37 year old head of the NAACP Spokane, WA chapter, and according to her parents, she is WHITE!  Biracial? No!  Mixed race? No!  Traces of Black? No! 

So I just read a little bit more about Rachel, and here’s what I found.  She was always interested in Black culture.  She married a Black man.  She has four Black adopted siblings.  She received a scholarship from Howard University.  She teaches African American Studies at Eastern Washington University.  She is a huge advocate for the Black community, being a spokeswoman on race-influenced police violence, being appointed chairwoman of a police oversight committee to keep an eye on fairness in police work, and having appeared with Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby after the Freddie Gray incident murder.

Montana, where Rachel was born around 1978 had less than 0.25% Black people.  Mississippi was about 36% Black in 2000, but in Jackson where Rachel went to college, it was about 70% Black; if you are in love with Black culture, that’s not a bad place to start.  She went to Howard University for her masters, which we know is predominantly Black.  Girlfriend finally hit the mother lode.  Spokane, WA where Rachel currently lives is about 3% Black, so it’s kind of understandable why she could pass for Black amongst her peers.  I don’t know why, but the lady considers herself Black.  Who am I to tell her otherwise?

However, if someone in this country, heck in this world was going to change who they were, why they wouldn’t choose to be a WHITE MAN is beyond me.  When it comes to privilege and having life the easiest, nothing beats a White man.  Yeah, it’s not politically correct to say that.  It’s not politically correct to state the obvious.  Well, it’s not correct to sit here and lie either.  So pick your poison!!!

So for a White girl who grew up in Montana, to choose to identify as Black in this day and age is quite interesting to me.  One thing I give her props for is to wear braided hair extensions on a regular basis.  Those things pull your hair out, are not easy to keep clean, can be very uncomfortable and painful, although easy to maintain.  And I’m not going to lie, she ROCKED those braids!

It doesn’t bother me that she tanned herself to look darker; many people of color bleach their skins to appear lighter.  It doesn’t bother me that she changed her hair to be kinkier/curlier; many people of color wear straight weaves.  It doesn’t bother me that her job is to champion human rights and the civil rights of Black people, even though she is White.  Well, her parents actually admitted that she has some Native American in her.

This is what bothers me mostly, that the NAACP still exists.  Now, I don’t want to put anyone out of a job because I know what it feels like to have a steady salary one day and the next day you’re trying to figure out how quickly you can update your résumé.  And I understand that although it’s not a service that I need, there are others who might.  According to their website, the mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. 

Even the name of the organization is redundant.  Black people are not called colored anymore…well, not in public.  At least, they don’t refer to themselves as colored, so that’s an advancement.  The NAACP was founded in 1909, and it’s been 106 years, and although there has been vast improvement, racial discrimination still exists in the political, educational, social and economic arenas of this country.

Just like how dozens of women who were outed for simultaneously dating a famous golfer do not seek help from NOW (National Organization for Women) and go instead to Gloria Allred for guidance and counsel, whenever a Black unarmed person gets shot by the police, no one calls the NAACP.  The person who sets up the marches and the protests is the one and only Al Sharpton.

I’m not saying that the NAACP doesn’t do anything; I’m just saying that I haven’t seen them do much.  And in light of the fact that so much injustice still takes place in America, I want to know how they use the $30 annual membership fee or the $750 lifetime membership fee paid over a 10 year span that they receive from the nearly 400,000 members.  Oh, they’ll get you if you are young too with membership starting from $10 a year to a $400 lifetime membership.  Yes, I know that they give scholarships, but $2,000 can only go so far.  And yes, I know every little bit helps, but let’s not pretend that they are paying anyone's way through college.

Rachel lied about being African-American.  Rachel lied about the identity of her father.  And really and truly, it doesn’t matter to me or clearly to the NAACP about the ethnicity of its leaders.  Benjamin Jealous wasn’t all that colored, and he served as President and CEO from 2008 to 2013.  He had lots of drops of Black blood in him, but back in the Jim Crow era, he could have passed for White ….. if he wanted to.

Not only should the NAACP or any organization like that go away, but the idea of classifying people in terms of color should also go away.  If one can still abide with an organization like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 2015, then Rachel Dolezal can abide by the one-drop rule and say that she’s Native American.  And I for one am tired of our blackness being the first thing people mention about us, as if it’s not obvious.

Case in point, citing  Barack Hussein Obama II (born August 4, 1961) is the 44th and current President of the United States, and the first African American to hold the office. 

However, this is how JFK was portrayed on the same site: John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), commonly known as Jack Kennedy or by his initials JFK, was an American politician who served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. Notable events that occurred during his presidency included the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Nuclear Test Ban TreatyPolice Week, the establishment of the Peace Corps, the Space Race—by initiating Project Apollo (which later culminated in the moon landings), the building of the Berlin Wall, the African-American Civil Rights Movement, and the increased U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

After military service as commander of Motor Torpedo Boats PT-109 and PT-59 during World War II in the South Pacific, Kennedy represented Massachusetts's 11th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953 as a Democrat. Thereafter, he served in the U.S. Senate from that state from 1953 until 1960. Kennedy defeated Vice President and Republican candidate Richard Nixon in the 1960 U.S. Presidential Election. At age 43, he was the youngest man to have been elected to the office,[2][a] the second-youngest president (after Theodore Roosevelt, who was 42 when he became president after the assassination of William McKinley). Kennedy was the first person born in the 20th century to serve as president.[3] To date, Kennedy has been the only Roman Catholic president and the only president to have won a Pulitzer Prize.[4]

Not only was his religion mentioned in the end of the second paragraph as opposed to Obama’s race being mentioned in the first sentence, but it’s written almost as an afterthought.

So since the NAACP claims to protect the equal rights of all people, it really shouldn’t matter if Rachel was Black or White.  However, deep down, we know that if she had applied for that job without implying that she’s Black, she would have never gotten that job.  I guess she thought it would be better to ask for forgiveness than permission, which I’m sure she’ll be doing shortly.

A common definition of ethnicity is “socially defined category of people who identify with each other based on common ancestral, social, cultural or national experience”.  If Rachel’s parents think that she is Swiss, German, Czech with some Native American, who is to say she doesn’t have some African too?  Maybe she doesn’t; maybe she does.  Who cares?  But the woman, for whatever reason clearly identifies with the Black race.  However, at the end of the day, she is working for an organization that is as superfluous as this scandal, and perspectively speaking, that is the real scandal.

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