We Do It To Ourselves, We Do

Like millions of others, I was ecstatic when President Obama vocalized his support of same-sex marriage. No previous president had pledged their support of equality for the oft-overlooked, unfairly maligned and outright hated sizable portion of the country. Analysis and second-guessing of Obama’s aims or motivations to make the announcement be damned; it was the progress that I hoped to see from the first black president. (And analysis of Obama’s blackness or support of the black community be damned.)

This news took on special significance in two communities: the media and the black community. The media is an extension of the people, its customers, and the people are largely ignorant. And in the past, any news story of substance that involves someone of African descent is met with a variation of the same questions: what do black people think; and how will black people react? Because clearly, a population of approximately 38 million diverse, unique individuals only responds to external stimuli like one mind–like the Borg. And this narrative was doubly tinged in obtuseness because blacks have been historically painted as hateful bigots against gay marriage, as recently as early May when the anti-gay marriage amendment went to vote in North Carolina.

Unfortunately, stereotypes have an element of truth, and black folks have a history of being against “the gays.” Rap music’s tattered history of homophobia is being mended, but the fact that songs like Big Daddy Kane’s “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy” exist are unfortunate reminders of a horrible past. (That also include’s Eminem, a white rapper.) The biggest source of that hate–and a rope-like thread that critics love pulling–is rooted in the Bible and its thoughts on the sins of homosexuality, souring many a thought about the acceptance of same-sex marriage–again, a lightning rod for any proposed state government measures against same-sex unions, despite the fact that blacks make up only 12 percent of the U.S. population. Depending on who you believe, blacks are now in support of gay marriage or not so much.

It is awful that people hold such hate in their hearts, whether it is their views against gay marriage or the equally antiquated view that all Negroes be hatin’. It sucks that the supposed collective black Borg seemingly “evolved” (a horrid example of Obama’s words used against him) on gay marriage right after Obama did, though I’m glad that popular figures like Will Smith and Jay-Z provided positive examples with their support of Obama and gay marriage. The unmentioned problem that the gay marriage issue  has exposed is that it is a bubble of the ignorance and hate bubbling under the surface of black culture.

***

African American culture has a narrative of sabotaging and turning its back on its own–after either propping each other up of looking down upon them. From the days of the plantations, we have been spiteful toward the successes and differences among our own–whether it was house slaves versus field slaves or calling someone “bougie” because they don’t conform to the stereotyped notions of African Americans. Many blacks subscribe to these thoughts, as do close-minded people of other races regarding black folks.

“Carlton Banks, soul brother number one.”

As a 32-year-old black man, I have a lifetime of experience with the subject of cultural hate, and here are some ways that I’ve noticed that us black folks discriminate against each other:

Maybe it’s institutionalized and/or internalized racism, self-hatred or a lack of assorted role models, the well-worn trope of “keeping it real” through divisive means is old and tired. And yet it lingers, with many people holding onto those beliefs like a life raft. Hating ourselves not only holds each other back, it gives ignorant assholes more ammunition to lob whenever discussions about black culture take place. It’s not fair, and it’s not right, but there is a lot of work that has to be done to change the general thought process on these matters.
***
If polls and similar types of statistics are to be believed (I don’t, as they can be rigged or stacked to get a certain outcome), President Obama is losing support from African Americans because of his support of gay marriage. Those that don’t want to see beyond their own world view and/or take stats at face value will equate this as proof that blacks are hateful, ignorant and conservative against the winds of societal change. Others may point to it as evidence of keeping it real against [insert derogatory comment here]. Whatever you think, we all need to alter the narrative so that African Americans can be seen as unique individuals and that misinformed assholes can be separated from an individual race and be called out for their narrow-minded views.
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