Sunday, October 09, 2005

Paradox

My father brought this up in the 70's. He said that blacks make money and move on up to the east side, leaving behind the poor. Instead of spending the money in their own communities to improve everyones lives, they moved into white America to give their kids a better chance. When Diana Ross married Norwegian businessman Arnie Naess he said that successful black women were leaving black men behind which I found interesting since he had married a white woman (my mom) before Clarence Thomas.
The Observer | International | The paradox that divides black America: "But there are other issues at work too. The divide of black and white masks another chasm just as deep: the gulf between poor and rich blacks. In fact, this divide is even more unbalanced than the racial one. The wealth of black America is far more concentrated in its top few per cent than white America.

Poor urban blacks have been abandoned by wealthy black Americans who move into the suburbs and mainstream America as fast as they can. The underclass they leave behind is a grim place and getting worse. In 1940 the illegitimacy rate among blacks was 19 per cent; today it is 70 per cent. Only 30 to 40 per cent of black men graduate from high school. That fact has prompted a bout of soul searching by middle-class blacks. Some have condemned what they see as self-perpetuating joblessness, poor education and a culture that worships crime. Others have appealed for more help, an increase in the affirmative action which has done apparently little to end black poverty.

The argument was crystallised in a spat between the black comedian Bill Cosby and the black author Mike Dyson. Cosby began it with a public excoriation of bad (and single) parenting, slang English, unplanned pregnancies, dropping out of education, and high crime. He even slammed black names 'like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap'. Cosby then went on tour holding town hall-style 'call-outs' in black communities.

It was an argument Dyson had little time for. He dubbed Cosby's roadtrip the 'Blame the Poor Tour' and wrote a book called Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind? Dyson said poor blacks could not be blamed for a society geared up to see them fail and which had stacked the odds against them before they were born. Many leading blacks have joined the fight against Cosby. 'He unerringly and wrongly blames the poor. He seems to think that if they would only change"
For what it's worth, I agree with Dr. Cosby. Shaniqua, Taniqua and Mohammed (especially now) are just as poorly chosen as Bubbles, Bambi and Gomer. When people outside their family see these names they make judgements which are not always kind. Just like anything else in society the further you deviate from the norm, the harder it is to get along.

A few weeks ago they were discussing on a local radio station (KFOG) that teachers go through their attendance list at the beginning of the school year and they make judgements about the kids based on their first names. All and I mean all of the teacher who called in said that boys with a first name that started with J were troublemakers. It was an eye opening morning because we must have heard from 10 teachers and the next morning there were letters in agreement.

There was a study a few years ago regarding resumes. The sent out the same exact resumes across the country and all they did was change the name of the applicant. There were more responses to the "normal" names than to the obviously ethnic ones.

While I'm at it, what about speaking english, the understandable kind? Slang is one thing, but why is that black people from Los Angeles sound like black people from Atlanta or Chicago. Same missing consonants. Why? If you have lived in America all your life, your voice should identify you as from the south or north or Canada, it shouldn't identify you as black from your first word. I would venture to say that 95% of the people I speak with on the phone are surprised when they meet me in person.

I prefer to have people deal with their prejudices face to face than to give them the opportunity to dismiss me before we have ever met. Yes, blacks should change. Just because you aren't responsible for the position you are in doesn't mean you can't try to change it. Why wouldn't you want a better life for your child? In this day and age if you can't read, the least you can do is encourage your child not to follow in your footsteps. My dad always said he expected us to do better and go farther than he did.

There is no guarantee that even if you go to school, do well and keep your nose clean that you will succeed. But it at least gives you a fighting chance and when it doesn't work out, you know it's racism.

2 comments:

  1. Being lily white myself, I don't feel I can comment on this issue. I don't have a problem with "black sounding" people. If that is the culture in which they are raised and the way they choose to speak, I'm okay with it.

    However, it doesn't always go down real well in the "professional" world. My primary care doc is an African-American, and he speaks like a mid-western white guy. It wouldn't bother me one bit if he had an "accent," as it were. But he probably learned that he would do much better professionally speaking like a white guy.

    Mixter

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  2. Actually what bothers me is the lack of grammar, such as how you be? and for a word that absolutely set me off: it is ask, not aks. You ask someone, not aksed. There are a few others, but what happens is that it contributes to other people perceptions that the black race is not as intellectually endowed.

    I hate that. When people meet me and talk to me for a little while, a good majority of them will say "you are so smart" in a tone of wonder that I find insulting. It is my own personal baggage, but after 40 plus years it is getting old.

    Just make an effort, that is all I ask. If Asian, Indian, Irish, Germans and Italians can do it, why not blacks whose families have lived her for hundreds of years. They all seem to have a tv set, so they are exposed to the former "kings english".

    I hate sounding racist, but something has got to change. I learned to speak proper english and my dad was black and mom didn't speak english as first language. A love of reading helps.

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