Friday, November 07, 2008

Acting White: Acting Gangsta'

Popular black culture, epitomized by the late Notorious B.I.G. and gangsta’ rap, is the leading-edge of black discontent that rejects education for getting ahead in America. President-elect Barack Obama, through his landmark success this political season, is a lighthouse in the search for the prize that the classroom brings, even for the lowest of the low. Obama, whose mother once fed him with the aid of food stamps, shows just how far a schooled black person can go these days–all the way to the White House – if that’s what they want.

It is a tragedy for black progress that the popularized bad-boy behavior, or what social scientists call oppositional culture, has taken root in black communities across this land. As misguided as it is, living dangerously has become a hollow means to stand against assumed white dominators spouting white directives for how to behave. Many African-Americans feel these dictations, on the value of diplomas and degrees, even when touted by successful blacks, are nothing more than a ‘bait and switch’ tactic to keep blacks on the bottom. There is the in-house belief that an educated black man is still just a ‘nigger’ in the eyes of America, waiting to be disrespected. Obama’s political mistreatment at the hands of some whites bears vague witness to these beliefs.

Nevertheless, it is precisely this twisted outlook of the role of books and learning, that has ten million blacks stuck on the bottom rungs of this country’s economic ladder. Aspiring to an education is not acting white. Rather it is doing right, by preparing to go forward on infinite pathways to self-determination and the American Dream, however challenged that dream might be in these difficult economic times.

What African-Americans need is an understanding about emotion-packed labels, and how to ‘keep the beat’ through their repeated stings. We need this so that when Rev. Jesse Jackson accuses then Senator Obama of acting white, or Republican Congressman Westmoreland, of Georgia, labels the Ivy League-educated Michele and Barack Obama as uppity, or when a black kid reading a book anywhere is accused of acting white by his friends, we will understand that these accusations are nothing more than distractions designed to throw a despondent black community - a desperate black community - off the trail of change for the better.

James C. Collier


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Mark Presco said...

James, I actually like your blog even though I think you’re too politically correct. This is the best post I’ve read to date, but allow me to put a slightly different spin on this.

I think that this phenomenon is more of a rationalization than a mind set. I think too many black children struggle in school to the point of self loathing. So, in order to save face and transfer the guilt they feel, they have come up with this elaborate excuse, even to the point of avoiding education altogether. I don’t have a solution for this, and am not expert enough to comment further, even though I have lots of opinions.

It is unfortunate that the black community, even Malcolm-X, can’t instill the sense that education is self empowerment and that their children have this responsibility to their community, if only to combat perceived white oppression. Whites have responsibility to self and Asians have responsibility to family to help in this struggle.

field negro said...

Thought provoking.

But I like what the poster above said about some of the reasons for these pathologies.

Still, regardless of where you come down on this debate, I think we all can agree that it's time to get to work.


James C. Collier said...

Mark, not sure what I am not saying to make me PC. I do believe our one-size fits all ed. system opens the door for failure for many blacks.

Field, ditto, I hope folks pitch in and don't think O-man is going to deliver them.

James C. Collier said...

Dennis, are you defending external obastacles as the primary drivers that thwart black advancement? The perceived 'whites only' sign on the presidency is gone, removed by voters who recognized (in part) Obama's ed. focus. I'm offerring that regardless of one's inhertited intelligence, putting such to good use is what matters, rather than defaulting to perceived historical barriers. Your declaration of absurdity does not change that too many blacks believe that the effort to educate themselves is for naught, or that any challenge (however vague) from whites can only come from racist motivations.

Mark Presco said...

James, my view of your political correctness arises from the PC idea that we are all the same and must be treated the same for the system to work. I think that you have promoted this concept. However, your comment on the one-size-fits-all educational system contradicts this. I will argue that it is the black community that has forced this idea on all of us.

Before the civil rights movement, schools were primarily funded and controlled by local communities. White people did not think white people should be treated the same. They wanted their children educated with local values. This is an extension of States Rights, which demanded primarily local control. There are pros and cons to this idea.

Since the Civil Rights movement, we have tried social engineering concepts such as forced integration and bussing, culminating in the idea that all classrooms everywhere should be appropriately diverse. We now have the No Child Left Behind program which has devolved into subjecting every student to standardized federal testing.

Black students seem to react negatively to the testing itself, in addition to the charge that the subject matter focuses too much on white culture and values. Are you promoting a return to the past? Black communities seemed stronger then. To me, diversity means that it doesn’t matter how you get there, so long as you get there.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Barack Obama, he has no strong ties, emotionally or psychologically, to blacks in America. He's not even the descendant of slaves, has never had to work or known desperation and despair, so the issue of his blackness is sort of a joke. He's got nothing to do with you. He's Dick Cheney's eighth cousin, for Christ's sake. Introducing race into politics always results in muddled thinking ... Policy-wise Obama is George W. Bush with an image makeover. He supports the drug war, the death penalty, the Big Brother state, the genocidal war on terror, and, very significantly, he's a complete stooge for the economic slavery of our banking/monetary system.

You act as if his being black is an accomplishment in itself. This is backward thinking, James. This is a form of racism, in fact. Making a positive assessment based just on race is just as foolish as making a negative assessment based on race ... Judge the guy on content of his character, not the color his skin. He's unprincipled, deceitful political scum. You ought to be embarrassed for your country and your race as I am about Bush and Clinton.

James C. Collier said...

Mark, I do not believe we are all the same, and nor can the processes by which we pursue the same opportunity be the same. The dominant historical culture of one's past is the greatest determinant of approach. As for the past, blacks must become assimilationist in whatever approach there is - of this I am certain.

Anon5:41: Winning the presidential election is a feat, made more difficult by African heritage. Rest assured Obama will be judged on results, with the appropriate 'embarrassment' then, and only then. As did Bush, and Clinton before him, today Obama has only my hope, as a proud American.

uglyblackjohn said...

"Acting White", staying "down" with the 'hood, and the "Stop Snitching" mentalities all effect the community in a negative way.
Leonard Pitts wrote an article about separation from the 'hood being good. With him, I agree.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous what kind of rusbbish are you spewing , this is the mentality that is holding American Blacks behind.
"has never had to work or known desperation and despair, so the issue of his blackness is sort of a joke."
What you just said sounds like a joke , simply because black people from the caribbean Latin America and Africa are migrating to this country and succeding in large numbers has never had to work or known desperation and despair, so the issue of his blackness is sort of a joke.You are your's own worse enemy beacause of that mindsetSlavery ended years ago and fromt ehlooks of it you guys dont give a rats ass about what really occcured orthe value of your " so called struggles"

The issues of his blackness should never come into question , mainly because one size does not fit all in the first place has never had to work or known desperation and despair, so the issue of his blackness is sort of a joke.I have no black American friends because in college I was accused of thinking I was better and being fake by speaking proper english ( ha not ebonics ) by black students has never had to work or known desperation and despair, so the issue of his blackness is sort of a joke.

Black peple are their own worst enemy and I will swear by that,You are practically saying that President Obama cannot get your black card because he did not have to struggle and have a hard life ( Is that something to be expected or a requirement for an authentic black person card ) You people make me sick with your backward and angry thinking has never had to work or known desperation and despair, so the issue of his blackness is sort of a joke.

President Obama has never had to work or known desperation and despair, so the issue of his blackness is sort of a joke.

Black parents need to be held accountable for their kids , not the school system or the white man ,Thje darn schools are their for Christ sakes make good use of them , and difference between succesful children and none successful are that their parents understand this

Anonymous said...

When I was in school, I was called an oreo cookie because I had a two-parent family, loved to read, and didn't have a "ghetto accent"(my mother a teacher, so of course she checked my speech), though I don't feel any better because those girls are now single mothers struggling without more than a high school degree while I have a Master's and a comfortable living. I rather they had the same ambition and believed that their minds were worth developing intellectually.

CNu said...

From what I've observed first hand over the past four years, part of what Presco said at the top is correct - (I've taken a few liberties for the sake of accuracy);

many black children struggle in school to the point of self loathing. So, in order to save face, they have begun avoiding education altogether. I don’t have a solution for this, and am not expert enough to comment further, even though I have lots of opinions.

I'm expert enough. If the basic mechanics of reading and numeracy are not instilled early, and made to serve the objectives of learning much as feet and shoes serve the objective of walking, then the struggling child's response will be to reject the struggle in favor of something easier.

James, you and I are likely ~ the same age - so this will perhaps resonate with you. I personally never had to struggle with either reading or numeracy. I was read to and had the skill nurtured and reinforced in me from the time of my very earliest recollection. As a very young child, reading for pleasure and amusement was my baseline. I suspect that you and mmany others of our generation also looked to reading as a source of pleasure and a primary entertainment.

Fast forward to the present generation. How many of these kids have never internalized the mechanics of reading via education and parental reinforcement to the point where it is essentially effortless, something that happens in background so they can enjoy the content payload of a book?

Mark Presco said...

James, I can’t tolerate you and your gangsta’ brothers try to blame this all on the “whiter devil”:

“Dennis, are you defending external obastacles as the primary drivers that thwart black advancement?”

It is time to step back and look at the big picture. The bottom line is this; there are two highly correlated facts throughout the world:

All white cultures are at the top of the world socio-economic ladder and the most desirable places to live because they absolutely and totally reflect the content of the character of white people.

All black cultures are at the bottom of the world socio-economic ladder and the most undesirable places to live because they absolutely and totally reflect the content of the character of black people.


Black people turn every place they exist into poverty stricken hell-holes. This includes every sub-Saharan country in Africa, Haiti (as well as all other black communities in the Caribbean and Latin America) and the inner cities of the USA.

I will not tolerate any nonsense that this is due to white racism and white oppression because there is yet one more highly correlated fact throughout the world. Black people who live with white people enjoy a much higher quality of life than those who don’t. This is true for Europe, the US and even South Africa during the height of apartheid. This is because they are incredibly overly subsidized by white people. That is why the migration from black to white cultures is increasing. Even Africa is overly subsidized by white people.

I maintain that the culture a people create absolutely and totally reflects the content of the character of the people who create it. The differences between the races are far more than skin deep, and those differences are reflected in the cultures they create. I reject all of the politically correct reasons for these differences. It is not a matter of geographical luck, having the right plants, animals or other resources. The ridiculous theories of people like Jared Diamond don’t adequately explain how the cultures became different, and they absolutely don’t explain why so many cultures have remained more or less the same after hundreds of years of globalization.

James C. Collier said...

Mark, the question to my friend Dennis was a challenge to his interpretation, and I will make the same to you. Where did I blame 'whitey'??? Your empirical analysis and assignment to white character (whatever that is) is toothless. You dismiss Diamond's explanation, however incomplete, with none of your own. As for your tolerance, you may not like the words here, but as I understand this internet thing, the only power you have is to change the channel (or up your comprehension), so why don't you knock off the bravado and park that silly threat.

Craig: I agree that oppositional behavior fills a void in black lives that you describe. The void is indeed created by too much video child-rearing and not enough active development through reading and math. In example, my young son pushed himself to read above-grade Harry Potter because the books came out in advance of the movies. But he had that card to play when he wanted it.

Anonymous said...

there is no such thing as the man , the man has become the person who does not seek their own best interest , for their kids success

Brian said...

Excellent commentary James...

My sentiments almost exactly.

However, there are some institutional barriers that will still exist (some created & perpetuated by Blacks stereotypes) regardless of Obama's Presidency.

We will still have to jump higher and run faster in the game of life.... just to be on the same playing field.

Hopefully Obama will become an example for young men and women (black, white, and other...but especially in the so-called "Black Community".)

Anonymous said...

Once the West falls who will save the black man?