Black History Month ’09 #18: One What? One Love

February 18th, 2009 by | Tags: , , , ,

The thing about black culture, and this is something that’s often understated or ignored when discussing race in America, is that it is American culture, through and through. Black culture has permeated American culture across a variety of formats and in varying degrees. In music, the progression from gospel, blues, jazz, rock, and rap has run the industry for decades. Kids all over the country are wearing white tees and baggy jeans, no matter their racial background or upbringing.

Is it racial appropriation? Is Eminem a wigger because he’s a kid who grew up to be a rapper? Is Ill Bill out of line for making White Nigger, about his childhood growing up as a white Jew? Was it cool for Big Pun, a puerto rican from the Bronx, to be one of the best emcees that ever did it? Or did they grow up able to relate?

One of my favorite music videos is Three 6 Mafia’s “Dope Boy Fresh.” The important part is the video part of the music video. The song is straight, but beside the point. It’s a flip on the movie Being John Malkovich, and allows viewers a trip into the mind of Three 6. My favorite bits in the video are the young kid at the beginning (“Murcielago with the wings out!”) and the asian girl at the end (around 3:33, though 3:36-3:38 is on some next level amazing type thing).

The first thing I thought when I saw this video was “Man, that’s pretty dang cool.” It’s a video that stuck with me, though, which doesn’t happen with most. The more I thought about it, the more I felt like it was illustrating some seriously basic point, a point so basic that it was tough to put it into words. Realizing that these people were stepping into someone else’s shoes and clothes, but still looking normal was the key. Sure, the old white dude is kinda corny, like the old guy at the club who nobody knows but keeps dancing with the young girls, but the rest of them just look like people. They look natural.

It put something into perspective for me. I’ve never really bought into the idea of wiggers or whatever. C-Rayz Walz and 4th Pyramid’s “Blackout” basically killed that entire idea for me.

If you black, with a degree, and you work
and got a happy family, they say you wanna be white!
If you white, with bells, smoke weed, listen to rap
and live free, they say you wanna be black!

It’s all the same. The white kid on the bus with his short hair covered by a New Era isn’t jacking culture or appropriating ideas. At this point, he probably grew up with it. It’s what he knows. It’s what we both know.

Coming to this realization was the final nail in the coffin for both wiggers and blacks in comics being something special. Everybody’s got black friends. My mom listens to some rap, but she also put me on to No Doubt back when Tragic Kingdom came out. I’ve got white friends who consistently surprise me with their rap knowledge.

Comics, in general, treat white males as normal. Women and people of other races are notable, and are judged on a frankly pathetic scale. If you write a mediocre comic featuring a gay couple or a black guy or a woman, well, hey! Have these awards! Way to go! The barrier for quality is lower, since if you’re already doing something adventurous by even writing black people, you must be doing something right!

If you compare comics and real life, though, you’ll find a different story. It’s 2009. At this point, so many things are normal that were not previously that comics need to adjust to compensate. We don’t need Black Panther launching during Black History Month twice in a row. It’s nice, and I appreciate the sentiment, but break out of this idea that each new thing that isn’t white and male is an event.

At the same time, we need to stop rewarding people for doing the barest minimum. Ham-fisted allegories or cheap and emotionally manipulative scenes means that you’re a hack writer, not some revolutionary bringing the truth down off the mount.

If you go outside, you’re going to see someone who looks, talks, or acts like me. If I go outside, I’ll see someone who looks like you. We’re both normal. We are different, but we aren’t different. By and large, we share the same culture.

Similar Posts:

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

5 comments to “Black History Month ’09 #18: One What? One Love”

  1. No, you see there’s a fine difference, if you could talk to a random black guy over the phone and he imagines you as a WASPY guy straight outta Hartford, then you’re an oreo. Not so much that your voice has no soul, just that it isn’t you. I have no problem with a black person being educated, what I hate is a damn Oreo. If I can bring them around decent working class black people, and odds are they’ll get their ass whipped? They’re either an Oreo or an asshole. You have to be comfortable with your blackness, whiteness, masculinity etc. otherwise you look foolish and people despise you for your weakness. Comfortable enough to blend in with good people just like you.

    Carlton Banks is an oreo, his dad was a successful black man.

    Eminem embraces the fact that he’s white, he’s a part of Hip Hop Culture, which isn’t the same thing because he isn’t like a wigger.

    A wigger is like a transvestite; it’s somebody trying to hide from what they can never change. They idealize black culture, and don’t gravitate towards it naturally. They just see it as being cooler than the culture they were born into. I don’t mind speaking with proper grammar and diction, that being said I got a Brooklyn accent out this world. So long as you don’t mangle the English language why not speak as you naturally do? I mean I hate it when black people use “White Voices” on the phone or in the work place.
    That bad imitation of a white person they believe to have proper professional dialect? To hell with that I say.

    A wiggger is Drexyl Spivey from True Romance, who just imitates caricatures of shit he saw on Television.

  2. Hi. First time commenter, been reading the site for a week or two.

    Rickey, I think your hatred of “oreos” (a term I hate) is a little unfair. I’ve been told I sound white when I talk, but there’s no effort on my part to sound that way. I used to live in Oakland, California as a small kid, then moved to a suburb just before hitting my teens. I learned to walk in predominantly black and white neighborhoods without getting my ass kicked or harassed while growing up, but I could never make the effort to make myself sound less white in the hood. This just happens to be the way I talk, and I’m not going to fake how I act just to affect someone’s first impression of me. Calling me an oreo or bourgie just because I talk a certain way is unfair, because my verbal patterns and inflection don’t define me.

    On the other hand, if you’re just talking about people who fake sounding white because they think that makes them better than you, then they really are assholes, and I retract my above statement.

  3. David B. knocks it out of the park again.

    Hey Rickey,

    I’m sure a lot of Transvestites would quarrel with your idea of what it is. And people who are transgendered can get things changed these days.

    And for that matter, I’ve never met an actual “wigger” as described. I’ve met PLENTY of white kids that grew up *IN* (not just with) black culture and it is really their own.

    As for the voice inflection, and the way people talk, every speak differently depending on their context. If you don’t speak differently among your friends and at work, there’s something wrong with you, or you are working with friends. I speak differently among friends, with my wife, with my family with my brother, etc…

    Culture is Context, and part of that context is the color of your skin. A larger part of that context is your environment.

  4. […] Oh, it features a minority character. Well maybe that’d be nice if that was any fucking good. These aren’t excuses we should be making at this point. This isn’t the type of thing you should be remembering fondly. And yeah, this isn’t […]

  5. […] Black History Month ‘09 #15: Halftime • Black History Month ‘09 #16: My Country • Black History Month ‘09 #18: One What? One Love • Black History Month ‘09 #19: Bridging the Gap • Black History Month ‘09 #20: It Ain’t […]