In the past week, Texas' Tarleton State University and South Carolina's Clemson University have come under scrutiny after photos posted on the Internet showed Martin Luther King Jr. Day parties with white students dressed to mimic stereotypes of Black people. Mimicked stereotypes included Aunt Jemima and gang members. One student is pictured with his entire body painted in black, while a female padded her buttocks. To add injury to insult, the students also appear to be drinking 40 ounces of malt liquor and eating fried chicken. All of this has once again put race relations back on the front burner, for the rest of America, because I have to tell you, it never stopped being an issue for Black America. But who is to blame?
Given the recent controversy around Charles Knipp, the white gay comedian who performs in blackface as Shirley Q. Liquor, an inarticulate Black woman with 19 kids on welfare, the Tartleton and Clemson scandals are the after affects of what can happen when you allow the negative portrayals of the African Americans to go unchallenged.
On the other hand, I am not oblivious to the brain washing that has occurred in our own community on this issue and would have some us arguing that there's nothing wrong it. But me not being oblivious doesn't mean that I blame Black people for it either. It simply means that I am aware of the fact that after decades of institutionalized racism, we have arrived at the point where we see the humor in these stereotypes rather than the danger. To take a page from Dr. Joy LeGruy's book entitled "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing," the systematic dehumanization of Black slaves was the initial trauma and as their descendents, we have borne the scars.
So no, I am not interested in sitting down with white America and "healing." Black folks have enough healing of our own to tend to. It's clear to me that my generation and those after me have not been transferred the knowledge from our elders of what happened to our people since we were brought to this country.
Maybe my generation had it too easy. Perhaps our ability to attend integrated schools and use any restroom we wanted conned us into believing that everything was all right.
What other reason is there to explain why generations of Blacks feel that it's ok to use the n-word when referring to each other?
But I digressed.
Tarleton and Clemson serve as reminders that while Blacks may be leaders in tennis, golf, music, basketball, football, and fashion design and even though white women buy collagen injections for places too numerous to mention in an attempt to look like us, at the end of the day we're still Black and they're still white.
While we can be insulted and upset at what these students did, and justifiably so, we also have to step back and look at how we got to this point. How we got to a point where no other race is degraded and disrespected in public like Blacks are. There's a reason why these students felt just in doing what they did and why Charles Knipp feels that his portrayals of Black women are accurate. After all, what are the consequences for attacking Blacks?
In the case of Michael Richards, it was a national media blitz, a few nasty emails and phone calls, and a staged apology on his way to the bank to cash his royalties check.
So what are the consequences for these students? A slap on the shoulder, a few meetings with Blacks to discuss how hurt and offended we are, while in the next week or month there'll be someone else doing the same thing.
Meanwhile, on television scantily clad Black woman prance across our screens bouncing to lyrics too misogynistic to repeat in this editorial and from the mouths of Black men. Black people will continue to defend the use the n-word by any means necessary because after all, it's being used with "a" at the end rather an "er." And while every other minorities numbers continue to go up in this country, our numbers will continue to go down because we still believe in fighting over a color rather than a piece of harmful legislation and we'd rather not talk about sex while our brothers and sisters die from it. And because we didn't listen to what our elders had to say about how life was for Blacks before we came along, we'll end up identifying with same people responsible for the current situation Blacks find themselves in today.
All of this while those same students who mocked Blacks graduate from college and pursue careers that guarantee financial security to ensure that their future generations are prepared and well taken care of, before birth.
So if you ask me who is to blame for a bunch of white students mimicking Black stereotypes, I'd have to say that Blacks and whites should share the blame. Blatant racism from whites towards Blacks is not breaking news in 2007, in fact, it's expected. What's not expected is for Blacks to aide in it.