Friday, May 24, 2013
The John Brown Brigade
The other day, Google sent me a signal that someone had left a comment on my post on "There's No Such Thing as Black History". It turned out to be one J. Nkomo, who wrote: "It is a sordid game, to manipulate racial tension to careerist aims in the face of unprecedented systematic anti-prejudice. The youth are embracing anti-prejudice surrounding sexual orientation, race, politics, lifestyle, gender, etc. But, in some sectors, the manipulation of U.S. racial tension might pass as legitimate academic research. Who might lick racial wounds green all the way to the bank?"
It wasn't the first time I've heard a disgruntled person (usually of color) suggest that a White person -- especially a White person in academe -- who has anything to say about racial oppression is doing so to make money off the back of the Black community, which would (according to the disgruntled person) be doing perfectly fine if all White people would just butt out. The point seems to be that no White person, educated or otherwise, could ever have any possible objective other than to make money and, most particularly, by exploiting people who suffer, even if that exploitation takes the form of appropriating the suffering in some way (such as "studying" it).
Okay. I hear you.
And you won't find me arguing that White Supremacy (with the support of the White community and most White individuals) is not the problem. It is. However, Mr/Ms Nkomo, you wrote your comment to me on my blog, so I must assume you are referring to me specifically and, since it is my blog, I get to respond. Thanks.
Before I begin, however, I want to address your flat statements that there is "unprecedented systematic anti-prejudice" and that youth are "embracing anti-prejudice" in every area of social interaction. I don't know where you're living, but this makes you sound like a White Supremacist. There is no evidence of any kind to support either claim. Even our Black U.S. President has had to deal with continual attacks on his character, his policies, his birth records, his family of origin, and his name, fueled quite obviously by U.S. citizens' attitudes related to his skin tone, and even threats against his life have been consistently far above the numbers for any other President ever.
Further, while increasing numbers of youth (and many others not so young) are beginning to look askance at the party line in general in this country, YouTube alone, not to mention the comments sections on blog posts or news articles related to race, gender, and sexuality are still often marked by their vicious racist/sexist/homophobic aggression. Even if that aggression is countered by other commentators, I can hardly imagine that you really believe it's not necessary or to the point to acknowledge the existence of what can only be called dangerous attitudes, especially since Facebook et al are full of photos of Blacks, Latinos, women, gay men, lesbians, trans-gendered and trans-sexual people bloody and sometimes dead because some person or persons in this country had a problem with their right to live here or, for that matter, to live period. Don't take my word for it. Even the police (who are supposed to uphold justice and be everybody's friend) are daily implicated in the ugliness, as noted clearly in the latest report from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
And that's enough said about that. Unless, of course, you want to read the other 500 plus posts on this blog, which you obviously have not done.
So let's move on to focus for a few minutes on how much I've benefited by appropriating and exploiting the suffering of people of color for my own financial gain.
I started out by living collectively for several years in the 1970's while involved in the prison abolition movement. Collectively, for those unclear about that term, means that no one got any money for their work. We shared food and a roof for the joy of being available to do whatever needed to be done to help prisoners and ex-prisoners.
Then, in the 1980's, I was on welfare while I raised my son and bi-racial daughter and involved myself with such lucrative activities as working with the A. Phillip Randolph Institute to get out the vote in the projects.
When I decided to go to school (at pushing forty-years-old), it was only so that I could get a job good enough to support two children. By the time I got my Bachelor's Degree, however, I had come to realize that it wouldn't be enough to get me off food stamps. So I jumped on the grad school bandwagon, choosing sociology (without a clue what it was about) because I had a vague sense that sociologists interviewed people and wrote about them, which I reasoned was not unlike what I did writing feature articles for alternative newspapers (for pennies an inch).
Grad school turned out to be interesting because I was learning about things I always knew were true, but didn't have any way to prove. In grad school, I learned how to prove that stuff, so I picked up a Master's (living on food stamps and a $400 per month stipend) and moved on to study for a Ph.D., a five year period when I lived at a level so humble my children still thought we were on welfare.
Ultimately, unfortunately, I was pushed out of graduate school in the middle of my dissertation so I was never allowed to finish and receive my doctorate. A decade later, I was informed by someone who would know that I was pushed out because my dissertation was going to demonstrate that the publications of famous sociologists (at least one of which was Black) were rife with examples of White Supremacist ideology. Apparently, this was not something sociology was prepared to acknowledge at the time.
I was so flabbergasted at being denied what I had worked so hard for that I went to work in the social service sector for a decade while teaching Social Problems and Juvenile Delinquency courses on the side. Though I finally discovered a few years ago that I could teach full time, I'm stuck at an Instructor level, teaching five courses to 350 students per semester, and will never be tenured because I don't have a Ph.D. To make matters worse, academe being what it is these days, I take home less than forty grand a year (a matter of public record) and haven't had a raise since 2008.
I have not yet bothered to publish even one "scholarly" article since I'm not trying to "become somebody," I'm trying to change the world. Besides, who's got time? I've been blogging here for eight years (without recompense, of course, despite the fact that it's had 220,000 visits). I wrote another blog on in-your-face women last year with the hope that it might be published as a book someday (but again, without recompense, though it's read in over 150 countries). And, since coming to Louisiana, I've mentored literally hundreds of young people, primarily youth of color, to help them get through college, which means I usually earn my working class paycheck putting in fifty to sixty hour weeks.
What's the point? I want to change the world. Not the Black world. Not the White world. Not the U.S.A. Not The South. The world. Which is why "The Changeseeker's Manifesto" appears at the top of "Some Basics" to the right of this blog. I'm not being coy. I have no hidden agendas. I want to leave the world more safe, more just, and more loving than it was when I got here. I make no apology for that. And, like Malcolm, I will work with anyone who shares that goal.
I don't usually drag out my street creds because the people whose opinions I care most about know me. But I don't mind doing it, if it's helpful somehow. The bottom line, of course, is that there have always been people that look like me neck deep in fighting for justice. Maybe not a lot of 'em and not usually a lot of 'em at one time. But we've always been around. And I'm one of 'em.