Wednesday, July 12, 2006

International Racism and Black Republicanism??

Whenever I lecture of race and ethnicity envitably I get questions about racism around the world. I always hesitate to answer the questions, trying to feel what the person is asking. For me to answer accurately, I would have to know the situation they were talking about, as well as the social, historical, and political dimensions of the landscape to really give a decently accurate response. I guess it's a response to not wanting to be "wrong" or misread a situation or continue to perpetuate the belief that race, as it is lived in this country, is the way race functions everywhere else. There are some particular things about the ways race and ethnicity function in this country that make it unique, but certainly not an outlier.

On the global level, racial or ethnic divisions can be seen, but not necessarily in the fashion that we construct them here. A couple of years ago a I had a student come up to me and tell me that he was trying to explain to an African immigrant to this country that he was Black. He said, "Man, Dumi I tried to tell him, but he just didn't understand." Besides feeling shame for having clearly produced a student who missed the nuascences in these social categorizations, I was reminded that my student, like most people read the US constellations of race and ethnicity as global. This shouldn't be suprising, hell, most Americans see the rest of the world through their own positionality. It is not to say that we all don't have a unique view point, but Americans seem to seldom interrogate why they view the world as they do. Who is Black? Who is White? Who is male? Who is female? All of these answers can vary dependent upon where you are. So why do American insist on reading race, in particular, in a US centric fashion? Maybe because sometimes it fits or does it?

Recently, the state of Michigan has been ripe with discusion of this ad. You'll have to enlarge the ad to read the text. Essentially it talks about how when Jesse Owens in 1936 campaigned for a Republican candidate. In the quote Owens explains he campaigned for him because when he won his gold neither Roosevelt nor Hitler would shake his hand, but the Republican candidate did. The ad goes on to explain how African Americans have long been treated poorly by the democrats and now it's time for a change (I assume he wants me to vote for Dick DeVoss). I think the ad is pretty interesting for its imagery and argument. Also shout out to Daily Kos for publishing it. I had a hard time locating it, probably because of the Hitler image. For the past five years or so, I keep hearing Republicans and members of the right talk about how African-Americans are considered a given to the Democrats and how we've been SO mistreated, so we should really not show our allegiance. This type of reasoning always reminds me of the quote "No permanent enemies, no permanent allies, only permanent interests." So I ask, what the hell interest does the right have for my condition?

I agree that democrats have been "hoeing" us for a long time. I agree that we are one of the most reliable blocks, but honestly the other side of the fence doesn't seem to have my interests at heart. Let me count the ways: 1) anti-felon voting rights, 2)disproportinate sentencing, 3) reduced social spending, 4) anti-affirmative action, 5) increased military presence internationally... and the list goes on and on like Shyheim. Good try on the ad fellas, but please do realize we're a little smarter than seeing a set of images and thinking what was in the past, is in the present. The context of Owens' life (domestically and internationally) was one of exclusion and hatred and in many ways, African-Americans' lives remain analogous. But I think we're clear who won't shake our hands now... ain't that Right?

And on a related note kinda, how about that World Cup finish?


Anonymous said...

Personally, my favorite piece of right-wing rhetoric is when they'll casually mention how Abraham Lincoln and
Frederick Douglas were Republicans. As if Black America somehow missed the monumental shift in party ideologies that happened in the 150ish years since that era.

Dumi said...

Right, we have historical amnesia and we're ignorant, that's a great approach Republicans!!!