Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Back to the Future - "The Effects"

Before I begin this week’s portion of my series, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the upcoming one year anniversary, on September 24, 2010, of the beating death of Derrion Albert, and honor his memory. If you are not familiar with what happened, click here:

Since September of last year when I first heard and sawof this heartbreaking and senseless incident, not a week (literally) has gone by and I not thought of Derrion. It is still hard to think about and almost emotionally overwhelming to watch. As many times as I am never at a loss for words, I cannot even fully express to you how my heart aches for him. When Derrion’s mother sent him to school September 24, 2009, I’m sure she did not expect that to be the last time she’d see him alive…and even worse than having to find out your child has died, the horrible manner in which he was beaten is unthinkable. I have no personal ties to Derrion or his family, or anyone involved, but the humanistic bond I share with them causes me to still grieve for Derrion as if he were my own son or brother…because in reality, it could have been.

I often contemplate what I could do to ease the pain his mother will always have; or, what influence I can have on an unknown child’s future to prevent him or her from participating in an act that exhibits such little regard for another human life. One year later, I have still not thought of anything sufficient enough to act as a mark of distinction and tribute to this Derrion’s life – but, as long as I am living and breathing, I will never forget him. My silent, lifelong promise is to one day honor him in a way that beautifully outshines his dim death.

It’s been a year –
To my heart, you are still dear.
Rest in Love & Peace, Derrion

Now, let us transition to our topic.
Perhaps, we can learn a bit about the effects of slavery on human behavior by this past current event. W.E.B. DuBois, American civil rights activist, sociologist, historian, author, and editor, once said: “One ever feels his twoness- an American, a negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” You may have never spoken it, and may even deny it, but many African Americans often struggle with their identities…

Not being ‘black’ enough..

Acting ‘white…’

An inability to be totally comfortable in any racial group…

This ‘double-consciousness,’ is a nasty little side effect of slavery. Now, that wasn’t on the warning label was it?
For those of you not familiar with double-consciousness, let’s liken it to this: it’s like being a sparkling, shining Mustang, but swearing to yourself you’re a fire red Corvette, and having people test [drive] you all day! Black people so often have to conform to cultural standards given by their peers, and at the same time, fit society’s distorted standards of what is right and proper, all the while attempting to fulfill our own perception of our personal identities . In a way, it is attempting to maintain the identity of two people at the same time. Talk about a balancing act.

But, how do these effects tie into the problem of past slavery?

When one does not know who they are – they have NO PRIDE, NO PURPOSE. In general, African Americans have have a foggy sense of their history, mixed between a handful of familiar facts and faces given to us during Black History Month and classroom textbooks with noteworthy, yet omitted information. In place of a clearly documented and dazzling history, we have allowed ourselves to relegated to assimilate and accept a history that is not our own.

NO PRIDE, and NO PURPOSE equals NO PRODUCTIVITY. Even in business, when an organization has a shared sense of values and purpose, they are motivated to work together towards a common end. How can African Americans begin to expect to embrace each other’s uniqueness, when we have not even collectively embraced our similarities?

And, with NO PRODUCTIVITY, there comes idleness…and we all know where that leads…
While you reflect on the African American loss of pride, purpose, and productivity, take a moment to ponder this question…

“We’ve gone through the names – Negro, African American, African, Black. For me, that’s an indication of a people still trying to find their identity. Who determines what is black?”

– Spike Lee


  1. Okay, maybe this comment will show up. That Spike Lee quote very nicely rounds off this post, and it is SOOO true! Nothing is a better indicator of our continual identity struggle than the constant change in titles we ascribe to ourselves: black, Afro-american, etc.

    I also think the "acting white" thing is funny. I've had a cousin tell me that I was acting white because I said "dude" a lot. We both laughed about it, no hurt feelings.

    I've met people and conversed with black bloggers on this topic, and I love how bourgeois people pretend to not understand the meaning of the accusation or phrase "acting white." You're not doing that here, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

    We all know what it means when someone says you're acting white. I think it's more important to try to understand where, emotionally and culturally, the accusation (when it is actually launched as an accusation rather than just a playful joke) itself stems from and what else, other than you, the person is trying to indict by saying you're acting white. Anyway, maybe that's a whole other post.

    I've noticed that being accused of acting white usually has little to do with the intelligence of the accused (a lot of the black bloggers I conversed with said they were accused of acting white because they were smart and bookish)or the way one talks (or because they spoke "correct" English). I find that the accusation is usually launched at people who meet one or both of 2 qualities: 1)Actually think they are better than most or many black folks, and 2)Actively (intentionally) seek to separate themselves from black people, especially black people of a certain class background (that separation includes looking down on such black folks or simply dismissing their importance). Some people toss around the phrase, playfully, when they encounter a black person who behaves in some way stereotypically white (i.e. the exchange between my cousin and me), but I find that in those instances the accusation is not meant with any seriousness.

    Anyway, I thought I'd show your post some love and comment. Keep them coming, Ms Qui!

  2. Miss B,

    How late am I...just now seeing this! Thanks for your comments and I find you reasoning, interesting, but relevant when you speak on bloggers you have conversed with who have been accused of acthing white.

    It is important to definitely KNOW who we are...and that is what it boils down to. Not knowing who we are started the problem, it magnified many effects, but like I will mention in my last portion of this series...the reverse of not knowing who we are...KNOWING and ACCEPTING EXACTLY who we are is the ultimate solution!

    Thanks for reading!