Friday, July 4, 2014

I’ve Changed My Mind About Two Major Issues

After watching the fallout regarding the recent Curly Nikki mess, I’ve changed my mind about two major issues that affect African-American Black women’s (AABW) interests. First, I’ve changed my mind about remaining silent about the growing pattern of younger AABW bloggers backing away from the term “Black.” Let me emphasize that I don't think younger AABW bloggers are doing this as a conscious, fully thought-out, or deliberate choice. I have the impression that it's something they gravitated to without really thinking about it.
Second, I’ve changed my mind and concluded that the vast majority of AABW can’t afford any attempts at nuance when considering biracial issues. For the sake of younger AABW’s mental health, ALL biracials (whether they’re individually loyal to AA Blacks or not) must be removed from our “African-American Black” category and placed in a totally separate category.

I believe these are intertwined and interlocking issues.

Younger AABW’s Curious Choice to Give Their Online Spaces and Conferences Titles Like Breaking Brown, Blogging While Brown, Brown Sistagirls, Etc. Instead of Breaking Black, Blogging While Black, Black Sistagirls, etc.
Please note that I’m not singling out any particular blogger or writer. There are a lot of AABW using “Brown” instead of “Black” when giving a title to their online presence. I’m mentioning these titles as examples of what I’m talking about.

The labels we choose when describing ourselves say a lot about our levels of consciousness and level of comfort in our own skin. AAs have historically had a tortuous relationship to identity. Our kidnapped ancestors started off self-identifying as members of whatever African ethnic group they were members of. That African tribal identity was deliberately destroyed via mass torture and rape. Despite a few holdouts, such as the founders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (which was founded in 1816), our ancestors abandoned the label “African.”

Instead, most of our ancestors began to self-describe as “Negroes” or “colored.” Until the mid- to late 1960s, to be called “Black” was a slur among most African-Americans. With the exception of the Nation of Islam who referred to AAs as “Asiatic Black men and women.” Unfortunately, hypocrisy tainted their efforts at claiming the label “Black” and reclaiming racial self-respect, which I’ll discuss later in this post. Most of our efforts as reclaiming ethnic and racial self-respect and pride are tainted with hypocrisy. It’s a human frailty, but there are some other poisonous ingredients.

When I was a small girl during the 1970s, AAs used the terms “Afro-American” and “Black” interchangeably to describe ourselves. A couple of decades later, AAs started using the terms “African-American” and “Black” interchangeably.
It literally took CENTURIES for us to get the word “African” back into our mental self-description.

Likewise, it literally took CENTURIES for us to get comfortable with self-describing as “Black.”
Also keep in mind that whatever terms we used to self-describe our racial and ethnic group were used by both AA men and women. There was unity and a perceived shared interest in those labels.

Something has changed over the past decade or so. I’ve noticed that younger AABW are running away from the label “Black” and instead using the term “Brown” in giving titles to their online presences. Up until now, the label “Brown” was claimed by Latinos in the U.S.

Latinos are now self-identifying as “White” (and for a variety of political and demographic reasons, American White folks are cooperating with Latinos describing themselves as such). AABW are calling themselves “Brown” online. AABM are still calling themselves and their online spaces “Black.” Do you see the change with this? Do you see the divergence between AABW and AABM in this matter?
It looks like this is  largely a generational thing. Younger AABW who’ve grown up during the hip-hop and c/rap era had their self-images formed by the 30 Year War On BW. When you stop to think about it, it’s no wonder young AA Black women are running away from calling themselves “Black” to using the term “Brown.”
For the past three decades, AABM in hip-hop and c/rap have been actively degrading Black womanhood in favor of lighter and Whiter women. This rabidly anti-BW poison has permeated throughout modern AA culture. All these younger women know (and have internalized) is an atmosphere of downright rabid gendered racism. All they know is Black women being openly devalued and degraded by the toxic modern AA culture created by hip-hop and c/rap’s warped values. By contrast, younger AA Black males don’t feel mental pressure to run away from self-describing as “Black men” because their identity as Black males has not been under heavy attack from the AA collective.

AABW in my age group are relatively blessed. We were already teenagers when that hip-hop and c/rap mess started up. By the time hip-hop c/rap emerged, our self-image had already been formed by other, mostly healthier cultural influences. Unlike younger generations of AAs, we also grew up listening to our parents’ records. And listening to our parents’ older siblings’ records. So we were familiar not just with the Black music of our era. We were also familiar with the Black music our parents and their older siblings had listened to when they were teenagers.

My teenage friends (male and female) and I hated hip-hop c/rap; and saw it for the talent-free, self-degrading garbage that it was from the very beginning.

We were also repulsed by hip-hop and c/rap on an aesthetic level. We liked music that involves acoustic instruments and musicians who can either actually sing or play instruments. We liked coming from a people who (prior to the hip-hop c/rap age) could harmonize and sing a cappella at the drop of a hat. We were not at all impressed by the influx of no-singing, no-instrument-playing "musicians" yelling and cursing over recordings of other people's melodies and beats.

Since, unlike modern AAs, we were familiar with our parents’ generation of Black music, we automatically recognized the stolen melodies, refrains, and beats the c/rappers were yelling over. And we knew the original versions of these stolen songs were qualitatively so much better than the ripped-off, c/rap version.

As a teenager who played the piano and flute and appreciated the craftsmanship that goes into composing music, I was particularly disgusted by all the “biting” involved in hip-hop c/rap. When you don’t have any talent, you have to bite off real musicians’ work.

But we ultimately allowed ourselves to be silenced by other AAs who accused those AAs who disliked hip-hop c/rap of being “bougie.”

Prior to the Curly Nikki debacle, I had decided not to say anything publicly about how so many AABW were running away from calling their online endeavors “Black” to using the term “Brown.” I didn’t want to say anything potentially divisive unless it was truly necessary. The Curly Nikki episode showed me that it’s necessary to say something about this.

I wasn’t so much shocked by what Curly Nikki did. I had mistakenly assumed that she had built up her own brand. I didn’t know that she had been a Trojan horse for a White-owned media entity from the very beginning. The pattern of White-controlled entities using Black faces to lure Black consumers is not new. I discussed this pattern in terms of upstart cable TV stations during THIS post:

Sojourners know that the traditional opening strategy for many upstart, minimal-quality cable TV networks is to pimp the AA consumer zombies. These networks use cheap, low-quality Black-oriented programming to build an initial audience of faithful AA consumer zombies.
After establishing a stable base audience of AA consumer zombie-viewers, the cable network uses the financial base created by AA slave viewers to develop more expensive programming designed to appeal to their true target audience: White viewers.
Once the new network develops a stable of programs favored by a sizeable audience of White viewers, the network then discards the AA consumer zombies and the Black-oriented shows used to attract AA consumer zombies. The network throws the slaves away like yesterday's trash. Two good examples of this strategy are the WB Television Network and UPN.

I wasn’t shocked at Curly Nikki. I was shocked to see so many AABW caping—hard—in support of that WW’s choice to insert herself into AABW’s “natural hair” issues. I couldn’t believe what I was reading from these Cape-Wearing AABW.
Not only are many of these younger AABW numb (as veteran Common Sense blogger Evia has noted), but they also have NO affirming sense of self. When you don’t have any affirming sense of self, it’s impossible to have boundaries with other people. When you don’t have any affirming sense of self, you try to latch onto somebody else’s identity. By hook or crook. It’s all interrelated.

I never liked or wanted to do anything to encourage the AABW Natural Hair Jihadis because I always knew there was a rotten core of hypocrisy underlying their non-stop screeching about how their natural hair styles reflected elevated, self-affirming consciousness levels. First of all, these women use a hair typing system that puts straight WW’s and Asian women type of hair at #1. While the more typical hair textures and curl patterns found among BW are at #4. What’s up with that? Yet again, we’re buying into something that positions somebody else as first and #1.
While these hypocritical natural hair fanatics were berating other BW for wearing processed or straightened styles, they were doing the same thing. The only difference is that the natural hair fanatical hypocrites called their relaxer type products “pudding,” etc.  

This type of hypocrisy among the most strident “Blacker Than Thou” types is an old pattern. We saw it with all the 1960s-era Black-talking BM activists who chased and married WW. The Nation of Islam also has this problem. While they (correctly, in my view) criticized AA Christians for worshipping the image of an Aryan Jesus, here’s some photos of “Master” Fard Muhammad. The old NOI taught that “God came in the person of Master Fard Muhammad.”
The idea of rejecting the historically inaccurate, Aryan images of God that the slavemaster taught our ancestors to worship is a good one. The idea of rejecting the servile identities the slavemaster forced upon our ancestors is a good one. The problem has always been with the execution of these good ideas. The same applies to the modern day Natural Hair Jihadis. The underlying idea of affirming your own natural beauty and your own natural hair texture is a good one. As always, the problem is with the execution.
The problems with the execution crop up because AAs have a tendency to import the same old, self-hating thinking into any new and good idea. So, instead of teaching AAs to rally around “Black,” the old NOI was latching onto somebody else’s identity by saying “Asiatic Blacks.” Instead of celebrating our own natural hair textures, many of the modern day Natural Hair Jihadis and followers have been latching onto (and using zillions of products in an attempt to achieve) somebody else’s hair textures—hair textures and curl patterns that are typically only natural for mixed-race women.
Let’s be clear: I wore my hair in a natural and braids during the height of the 1980s Jheri curl era. I wore my hair in these natural styles without using any so-called curl activator-type products. My natural naps were on display in all their unaltered glory. These modern day Natural Hair Jihadis aren’t doing anything new. And they’re doing these natural styles at a point in time when these styles are in fashion. It does not require courage to wear natural hair styles nowadays. In other words, most of the current day Natural Hair Jihadis are following a fad and are NOT on any sincere “hair journey” toward acceptance of their natural hair textures.
Which brings me to why we must—without any nuance—remove Black biracials from our AA Black category. I still have the concerns I raised in THIS post. But after I saw the multitudes of AABW who were caping hard in support of White and other women inserting themselves into AABW’s natural hair issues and spaces, I reconsidered my views.
Because I grew up under different circumstances, I’m not numb like so many younger AABW. I can tell the difference between a pimp slap and a caress. I can see and maintain boundaries between myself and others. I can maintain my own positive sense of self while dealing in nuances. Most AABW can’t. Especially not most younger AABW. This ties into the replacement and erasure of BW that I discussed HERE. It’s all related. And I now see that it’s also generational to a large degree. I agree with the comments that Evia made in the comment section to THIS excellent post.

As you may know, I’m an “old school” AA woman from a certain place and time, so it’s always been easy for me to connect all the dots. But the question that has stymied me since the time I started blogging is WHY is it that so many younger AAbw and similar bw of all income classes and educational levels CAN BE COUNTED ON to act suicidal in so many situations as if it’s a reflex. As y’all point out, even when they’ve been told over and over the smarter or reasonable way to flip the script, they still CHOOSE to make suicidal moves. Even when they’re taking their last gasp, they still make suicidal moves!

So, my approach to this mystery is the same one that scientists use in studying lower life forms to determine why water animals, might for ex., crawl out of the water–to die on land-deliberately. I’m NOT trying to offend anyone but I think that it’s time to “study” these very detrimental choices that SO MANY AA women make and dig out–no matter the underbelly of it–what’s really going on. I call it a death wish. I notice, too, that the bw who do these things rarely ever speak up and say exactly WHY they’re doing them–and some of them do know why. “Low self-esteem” has been worn out!

So, in the last year, I’ve been trying to drill down deep to find out what’s at the bottom of this “death wish.” We’ve got to be brutally frank about this because AA women don’t have much more time. We’re seeing this more clearly now.

I’m convinced that ONE reason they do it is because negative attention (slave movies, reality shows, etc.) is better to them–than no attention at all. And I believe that some darker bw live life vicariously through their lighter friends or lighter other women. That, to them, is better than nothing. AAs have NEVER dealt ruthlessly with the massive colorism that sits in the heart of the typical AA man, and it IS AA men who are the chief makers and distributors of this poison. so it will continue to kill the spirits of many black females since they WILL be rejected in favor of lighter-whiter women.

. . . One of the key reasons I’ve been able to pinpoint for some of this suicidal behavior is that the bulk of AA women feel VERY alone and apart from other WOMEN, as well as men. That’s the #1 reason they’ve stated to me for why they continue with the BAU (business as usual). They feel unsupported and virtually hopeless that things will change.They don’t feel they have anyone at their back and I think this is because they really don’t have anyone at their back. And this has occurred for a number of reasons but we can see some of this online, where bw (who need each other the absolute most will attack and tear each other to pieces psychologically, if they can.) This is because “hurt people hurt people.”

. . . @neurochick, Yep, I know–from interacting with various younger AAbw, that something profound occurred to large segments of them that caused many of them to become numb, and to completely doubt their value.

This replacing of Nina Simone by Zoe Saldana and the whole replacement thing could NOT have occurred in the 70s and 80s. Nina, herself, would have ripped her clothes off in Times Square, if necessary, to bring worldwide attention to her being replaced. LOL! Let’s face it-there were more than enough clueless bw back then, BUT there would have been way more than enough LOUD, unceasing protests from enough of us. A great WRONG is occurring with this replacement campaign, but judging by the overall silence, the bulk of AAbw can’t “feel” that wrong occurring. Like I said, they seem to be numb. Not only do I “know” it’s wrong, but I also FEEL it.

Insofar as going to see any of these movies where AAbw aren’t being lifted up–and spending money on them, the fact is that spending money on anything sends a clear message of APPROVAL and/or that we just don’t care. That’s the message that is being received. And if we don’t care or do approve, then we should never be surprised or not even bat an eyelash when that thing comes back to bite us in the butt. We can’t have it both ways. If there were ample roles for AA women–roles that we could be proud of–I wouldn’t have a problem with supporting selected one of these movies, but there aren’t. And self-preservation is the FIRST law.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. I don’t understand the mindset that makes it possible for so many AABW to cape in support of WW and others intruding into AABW’s natural hair spaces. I just don’t get that at all.
But I do know that AAs are in freefall and moving backwards in terms of self-respect, self-acceptance, and self-love. I do know that AABW rejecting “Black” in favor of “Brown” is not going to help AABW in either the short term or the long run. I believe it would be better actively work on affirming one’s actual self. The first step is to disconnect from the poisonous, anti-BW media that so many of us continue to lap up.
I suppose many women would justify this self-description by saying that they're simply noting their actual skin color. My response would be to note that “Black” (like “White” for persons of European descent and “Brown” for Latinos) has been a short-hand, political racial self-description. The point was not to delineate everybody’s actual skin color. Few European-descent Whites are actually White, many of them have alabaster skin tones with varying degrees of pink undertones.

The other thing about AABW formally self-describing as “Brown” based on actual color is that it opens the door to yet more fragmentation. Because if I picked a self-descriptor based on my actual color, I’d end up calling myself “Beige.” Once we open those floodgates, it’s guaranteed that lots of other formerly “Black” AA women will be calling themselves beige, tan, manila folder and anything else that’s not Black. Foreign-origin Blacks will increase their efforts to avoid the “Black” label by self-describing based on their African, Latino or West Indian ethnicity only. There are nuances to all of that that I discussed HERE.  

AABM have already retrogressed by staging 30+ years of 1800’s-style quadroon balls in their music videos and movies. Do we as AABW really want to join AABM by working our way back . . . step by step . . . (from Black to Brown to whatever the next lighter descriptor will be) toward self-describing as “colored”?