Friday, August 24, 2007

Why is acting white so bad?

Andrew Anthony:

One proof of this is the pejorative slang term “coconut”, meaning someone who is black on the outside but white on the inside — or put another way, someone who looks black but acts “white”. For in reality, almost all of us good liberal anti-racists carry around a set idea of what being “black” entails: physically strong, non-academic, in some way anti-authority and of course promiscuously heterosexual. And anyone, particularly a male, who does not adhere to these preconceived notions is by definition somehow less black.

I got thinking about this imprisoning idea of blackness when I visited a largely black school in South London and met a talented young poet. His teacher told me that the pupil was in constant risk of expulsion as he tried to conform to a group image of toughness and resistance to education.

It struck me that teachers like my friend had been trained in anti-racism and diversity awareness, that society at large had become progressively less racist in the past three or four decades, employment opportunities had considerably increased, and yet statistics showed that the academic achievement of Afro-Caribbean boys had either not improved or declined during that same period.

For the anti-racist ideologues the answer was simple: racism. It had not gone away, it had just become more subtle. And in a way they were right, I think, although not in the way they thought. First of all, a large part of the racism that I witnessed came from within black communities themselves, where low expectations and cultural stereotypes were often aggressively enforced. Then there was the kind of “well-meaning” racism, no less restricting, in which I had been complicit.

I recalled, by way of example, an interview I once did with an obscure political aspirant by the name of Derek Laud (later to achieve a greater profile as a contestant on Big Brother). When I met Laud in 1997 he was the prospective Tory candidate for Bernie Grant’s Labour stronghold of Tottenham.

Laud dressed like an Edwardian gentleman, spoke in a camply posh voice, was a member of the right-wing Monday Club, and an enthusiastic fox-hunter. In other words, he wasn’t very “black”. Naturally, as a good liberal, all I did was talk about his race.

After teasing out all the apparent contradictions of Laud’s existence as a black man, I put it to him that it must have taken a great deal of willpower to ignore his own racial identity in the homogeneous environment of the Reform Club, where we met.

“This is your problem,” replied Laud. “You clearly think of me as being black.”

At the time, I thought this was a tragicomic case of self-denial. And I quickly pointed out that he was indeed black. To which he said: “I never wake up in the morning and look at my face and think: ‘Gosh, I’m black.’ ” Of course, I never woke up and thought I was white, but that was different: I was white. I wasn’t fighting my own racial oppression. Had he never heard of black consciousness? It was agreed by every approved authority on the matter that the way to liberation from racial prejudice was to “get in touch” with your racial identity.

But what does that mean? Or rather, what has that turned out to mean?

There is little danger of urban black youths being unaware of their identity as young black men. Its ubiquitous imagery is sold back to them with all the crude repetition of a 50 Cent album. And this self-dramatising idea of blackness has helped to create a mental ghetto that is every bit as debilitating and limiting as the real ghettos taking shape in our cities.

One way of correcting this situation, which almost everyone in theory agrees upon, is to challenge racial stereotypes. In which case there can be few greater challenges to the Afro-Caribbean stereotype than Laud: gay, camp, sardonic and Tory.

I was wrong about Laud. I don’t mean to say that he should be held up as some kind of role model; only that if the black story is to evolve beyond a constraining identity of victimhood and oppression, it first needs to embrace people like Laud. And then, the real test, it needs to be big enough to let them go.

Instead, the British African pressure group Ligali dismissed the “gay pseudo intellectual”, after his Big Brother appearance, as a “prime example of cultural disinheritance”. Alas, this is an all too typical bitter reaction to anyone who doesn’t put their blackness first. The truth is, however, that until people with black skin can reject and select their own culture they will never truly be free.

National Review: Race Is “A Perceptual Category, Not A Biological One”

11 Comments:

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Jeba Mind Tricks said...

To be honest with you this is the only post that I find posts a decent argument.

To understand this you need to delve a lot deeper and possibly live within the commuity. Growing up there are a lot of pressures, there is also a lot of conditioning. We [as a whole] are told how people should be and react to thing sthrough the media, i.e 50 Cent is a famous rapper, however is no wehre near the best or the most conscious. There are a lot more suitable role models however they do not get the exposure. One can suggest that this is the way someone wants it.

As certain areas stay congested with particular ethnic communities and immigrants, particular mentalities of a positive and negative will reside in these areas, holding back the group. If allowed to spread out, and experience further afield then they can expand. there is a lot more out their for blck children, but it is held back, not physically but mentally, it's hard for them to realise it.

Greener pastures are shown to them however as if it was in a next field, not just outside the garden gate, which is different to say white British children.

 
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At 9:40 AM, Blogger thursdays child has far to go said...

i hear this fully...i'm from south london im a white girl my cultural identity is messed up i dont feel one, i dont know who i am with regards that.

i used to roll with some of the mans mentioned in this blog, some ghetto boys, one of them is my babyfather.

he mentally abused me as long as i can remember until i hated myself for being white. im not with him now btw, but when i was younger was different, i didnt realise that it was him with the problem not me.

when i was growing up i didnt 'it in' my dads family are jewish my mums working class english. my dad had nothing to do with his jewish family after he married my mum, i was not brought up in the jewish faith; however i did not fully 'belong' or find my pace amongst white society. I was not accepted by my peers at school, which was in Sheffield, in a predominantly white area.
Aged 16 in 1999, I ran away to LONDON and was immediately accepted by black girls, and immersed into British West Indian culture. I lived with a family from Trinidad and then after that in hostels where the girls were either black BRITISH or or dual heratidge.

I quickly learnt that it was not so great to be white, to be percieved to be acting white and that white people were considered, "narsty" "dirty" unable to cook, clean properly, look after their children, and just generally no one like them. i FOUND THIS IDEOLOGY CONTINUED DURING MY TIME IN PRISON WHICH WAS 6 YRS AND WHILST I WAS A T LONDON MET UNI IN 2006 I BEFRIENDED A GROUP OF BLACK BRITISH GIRLS WITH THE SAME ATTITUDES.

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger thursdays child has far to go said...

Why was I accepted? i was always told "i was not like THEM (whites)I didn't go on like one i was different.

I met the Ghetto boy in 2000 and started a relationship with him and his opinion was contradictive, he went out with me but he said he hated me, he didnt like white people, he had all the same opinions as the other black people i associated with however unlike them he applied his theories to me and continuiously mentally and verbally abused me.

I know if there was a black person we percieved to be acting 'like a white' we used to call them a 'BOUNTY' which is a similar diss to the 'coconut' terminology.
In jail i only mixed with the West Indian girls and adopted many of their ways and sayings..

During jail I left the Ghetto man and i was released and I associated with PECKHAM MANS much to the disgust of the Ghetto man, I Found the racial things pretty similar but by this time i didnt really jam with girls too much in Narm was mans cos of me being in jail so long and i used to smoke weed like the men do, the girls in peckham dont seem to be like that..
well everything is about respect and being a white girl you dont get none, you get thought of being a slag and men just want to fuck you but wouldnt consider a
relationship with you, i've heard be said

"its one thing to fuck a white girl but another thing to breed one"

and if they are like what happen to me, i found a guy i thought was true to me i discovered he have secret double life and he had another girlfriend who was black, so therefore more 'socially' acceptable to me in the eyes of his family and peers.

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger thursdays child has far to go said...

i know a guy i still have contact with over fb (ive moved out of london to the country) he has white girl and i seen on his fb page people write comments to him like 'yo fam wots gud, how r u? r u still wiv dat white girl?'
so obv its not accepted because if he was with a black girl no one would be commenting on his page saying 'fam are u still wiv that black girl?'

tbh i still talk like that i mean if i'm with black people n were talking about someone white i will refer to that person like the black people do by calling them 'the english'..or'that british'

Things are changing though, IN Brixton, Peckham the rise of girls wearing the HIJAB,and NIQAB is growing, it is not asian girls in theses area but black...I became one of the HIJABI in order to be accepted by the community around me and to be given the respect that I was not 'a slag' or some 'dumb white girl' and now I MOVED away from LONDON its soooooo different where i live now, i hate it i miss the endz, but i cant go back cos i wanted my children to have a better life than the gangs..where i lived in NORTH PECKS was bad for them, in 2 years there was 3 stabbings and 2 shootings OUTSIDE MY HOUSE.

my son was in lots of trouble at school and i see the way girls are treated and used there...those men will chew u up and spit u out...i dont want my daughter in that life or my son.

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger thursdays child has far to go said...

But here BLACK is NOT the culture, any BLACK girls here DO NOT wear HIJAB, only pakistanis, in other areas to here nearby, but even most of those women DONT wear HIJAB, i have seen less NIQABI then i could count on my fingers in 8 months
It was a BIG culture shock here TBH...I was attacked on the bus for wearing HIJAB...when in LONDON it is preferable...i dont wear it now, but i feel culturally LOST
its a hard thing...
there is a quote in TONI MORRISONS novel TAR BABY " ....p272....

..."There are no 'mixed' marriages. It just looks that way. People dont mix races; they abandon them or they pick them..."

i think that sums it up

im soooo intrested in CULTURAL identities, Im also intrested in theatre and thats what im about to go back and study..you can tell these things through that medium...

because most people dont understand they think this is 2011 and Britain is multicultural and racism has been overcome but it is still there and its coming from both sides not just white on black...black on white, so many way...this comment is too long..anyone wants my view further holla innit x

 
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At 4:55 AM, Anonymous How To Get Rid Of Bad Breath said...

couldn't agree more with you Jeba,

maybe anew Malcolm x is needed here...

 

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