For a ethnic group that makes up less than one-seventh of the U.S. population, African Americans have a powerful influence on American culture. Whether it is education, entertainment or economics (and a list of other things!), black folks wield great sway on the apple pie-eating, baseball-playing, super-sized super-sizing populace. That music you listen to? Influenced by blacks. That shitty stop light that won’t turn green? Blacks. The welfare queens the media tells you are demonizing the American way of life? White people. (Curveball!)
To sum up a long-winded point, black people are powerful. “BUT HOW?” you ask? I can’t divulge ALL of our secrets, reader. Mystery is the spice of life–like cumin to Mediterranean cuisine or patchouli to potheads. But I can offer a few, and you’ll be most the wiser. After all, maybe it’ll help with this whole racism thing.
Black People Can Get Business
It’s an unfortunate reality that businesses are afraid of black customers. They’re afraid that we will steal merchandise, won’t tip the socially-mandated amount, and shop at Land’s End clothing stores. And they are justified in being afraid of that last one. (Land’s End has terrible clothes.)
But the actions of an ignorant few have unfairly maligned the majority, and yet it has become a positive somehow: black people, for the little number we occupy in society, capture a great amount of corporate attention. If you are not black, be aware of your surroundings the next time you are in public. Look at how close those Best Buy store clerks are trailing black shoppers! Listen in on the Applebee’s restaurant staff complaining about the black (or “Canadian,” as is restaurant code for black) diners! Feel something when well-off black customers are told about layaway plans and items out of their means! Black folks cast a DARK shadow on corporate America, y’all.
And speaking of dark shadows…
Blacks Are Useful for Rebelling
Are you looking to get out of your family’s shadow? Need an alibi or someone to pin a crime on? WANNA PISS OFF YOUR DAD? Find a black person!
Despite the leaps and bounds in social progress blacks have made in American society–overcoming segregation, gaining the right to vote, being able to marry anyone we want, Mormonism!–over the years, we are still seen as the scariest human entity since Noah the ark-building animal fucker. (Two of every animal? FREAK.) That whole “being afraid of dark people” thing is not just something that is popular in Arizona; it has a history.
Before I get to my main point, a quick (heh; you’ll see) segue:
Racists have been successful in creating the narrative of the threatening black person since the days of slavery, frightened about the prospect of an unchained, educated and equal person or people of African heritage. And this is DESPITE whites kidnapping blacks FROM THEIR HOMES and putting them in bondage! They were the original haters.
And then it got WORSE: after the abolition of slavery, a new reason to fear and overpower blacks was needed, and it came in the form of organized hate. It is no coincidence that the Klu Klux Klan gained power after the end of slavery, killing blacks under the guise of Christianity! People felt empowered to become vigilantes, rounding up blacks that threatened their way of life. But how could they justify it?
Fiction writers like Thomas Nelson Page played into racism and general hysteria by painting the portrait of the freed African American male as a violent, vengeful beast, fueled by rage and lack of money, hell-bent on unspeakable acts of terror to destroy their people and way of life. This bred lynching scapegoating. White folks found encouragement to string black people up to a tree in order to protect their frail, fragile women, AND they were more likely to rape women–the majority being black. This demonized African Americans and reduced white women to property. Sounds like conservative political rhetoric, eh?
So black people are considered scary, provoked by meager funds and hateful tendencies to act in socially uncouth ways. Sounds like a powerful person that would piss off mom and dad! Cheese off your folks by listening to rap! Hang out with the so-called troublemakers not giving your country back! Literally stick it to The Man by sticking your genitals to those of a black person!
That’s not to say that all black people are peaceful and not worth fear: Chris Brown still walks the earth, after all.
Black Folks Are Great Villains
Remember the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards? NO? I’ll give you a second to dust off the dirt from that rock you were living under.
It was a star-studded night. Little orphan Taylor Swift, fresh from giving yet another surprised face for winning the “Best Female Video” award, walked onto the stage to accept the increasingly-lacking-in-luster Moon Man statue. BUT THEN KANYE WEST SHOWED UP. Sauced on Hennessy and his ego, Kanye took the microphone from SWEET, INNOCENT TAYLOR and RUINED HER MOMENT by declaring Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” as the greatest video of all TIME.
A villain was born that day.
The HEINOUS act had all the makings of good versus evil, black versus white, powerful versus fragile. In one corner was the lilting, wilting flower of a white girl; the other corner, a SNARLING BUCK of a beast, clad in black with midnight skin. This is how the media portrayed it and the public interpreted it. Kanye’s pile of egocentric, stupid public gaffes toppled under the weight of this Titanic of a mistake.
The aftermath was mind-boggling. While Kanye was vilified for years (he dropped out of sight for awhile), mocked for longer and still battles a negative public image (not even two platinum albums could erase his years of idiotic acts). Meanwhile, Taylor Swift became the media darling, the embattled delicate china doll that was the victim of the BIG BLACK MAN, and saw her career take off like a rocket. Post-racial!
But that’s how blacks are treated. LeBron James, Oprah Winfrey, President Barack Obama, Dave Chappelle: just a handful of prominent African Americans that are maligned for behavior (arrogance, wealth, being a threatening black person in a position of power, not wanting fame) that would be swept under the rug if committed by a person of another race. (Except for President Obama, as it would be in poor taste for a non-black person to portray a black president.) People can find any reason to be jealous or frightened of a minority’s powerful influence, and they can find as many ways to knock them down a few pegs–scandal, personality quirks, or adultery in hotel rooms.
The Chris Brown mention is equally apt: for all of the violent behavior cokehead asshole Charlie Sheen has exhibited in 3+ decades, including beating a shit-ton of women (and SHOOTING one–though that was an accident, HA HA HA! THAT SCAMP.), Chris Brown gets more crap for his behavior. This is not to excuse Mr. Brown, as he is a grade-A dickbag; I’m saying that Charlie Sheen should be as accountable–if not more so–for his actions than gaining moronic fans shouting “WINNING!” and making more money as a result. Another example involves sports. Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was nearly crucified when being charged for rape while Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger received far less criticism for his rape charge. (ESPN, the Fox News of sports, sat on the Roethlisberger story for days before finally reporting it due to the negative publicity the quarterback would receive.)
So what can black people do to harness the powers of fear, hate and bile that our presence brings? This is a good question.
And I have an answer: nothing.
I challenge the American public to step up their game and hold EVERYONE in the same contempt. We are all human beings, and we share the same vital organs and majority of genetic makeup. Therefore, one’s mistake is everyone’s mistake; similarly, one’s triumph should be shared and celebrated by all. We can rise up from our falls, lend a helping hand to someone in need, and hoist our best on our shoulders. That the people we hold dear are of another race should be the least of our concerns.
Let’s make everyone feel powerful in the right ways. I dare you.