Thursday, April 27, 2006
Stepping Over the Color Line - Washington Post
When Whites assimilate a component of another culture, in this case Black culture, they are adding to the evolutionary and advancing fabric of American society. Inasmuch as they acquire knowledge and understanding sufficient to recreate and distribute the new acquisition, they own it, and are free to evolve it forward, in ways specific to their needs and tastes.
It is actually risky for any majority group to ignore enhancements to living that pass before them, regardless of the source, as they can never know which invention or discovery will shift the balance of power away from one group to another.
Blacks, however, do not generally view imitation as flattery, as much as they see it as exploitation. This is a zero-sum perspective where for one group to win, another must lose. For Blacks, not assimilating the behaviors of others, particular those whose ancestors originated from societies with technological advantage, comes with a high cost. It is the very technology Blacks avoid, that hurts them in the competition for opportunity.
An argument can be made that iconic-singer Elvis Presley stole Black culture and remade it into something for Whites, but this is not the case. He seems to have been, more simply, a singer who liked Black music, and felt that White audiences wanted to hear and see it. At the time, segregation did not allow Black entertainers like Little Richard and Chuck Berry to play White venues. Demand by White audiences required time to reach the point where Jim Crow segregation laws could be tested, with acquiescence. However, with Elvis’s popularity, demand accelerated and eventually overpowered segregated performances. Black artists ultimately began to deliver their more authentic creations directly, with compensation to match. This is why Little Richard refers to singer Pat Boone as 'the man who made me a millionaire'.
So the hope is that Blacks will begin to judge advancing behaviors, not by skin color, but by results. They will not only appropriate them from anyone, at any time, under all circumstances, but they will do this knowing that they did not compromise any part of themselves in the process.
James C. Collier
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Posted by James C. Collier at Thursday, April 27, 2006