Ed’s note: This entry comes from one of my favorite bloggers of the last few years, Big Man of The Raving Black Lunatic. It’s about an article written by Toure concerning the Obamas pending trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Toure’s effort is lazy. Big Man’s first sentence sums up my thoughts quite well. The rest of his rant is on point, too. Oh yeah, vote for TMCY in the Black Weblog Awards. It’s kind of a big deal.
“As liberal as it is, the Vineyard is about as racially integrated as a college dining hall—blacks and whites get along fine, but they generally don’t socialize.”
I’m shaking my head right now.
The above quote comes from this article (“Black & White on Martha’s Vineyard,” New York Magazine). The piece uses the Obama’s potential plans to vacation at Martha’s Vineyard as a jumping off point to discuss the vacation spots segregation.
And everything goes horribly wrong.
Unfortunately, the article falls victim to all of the traps that present themselves when someone tries to talk about racism and racial dynamics using broad generalizations. It utilizes convoluted logic, (like the example I pulled out up top), it simplifies complex issues and it does just enough editorializing to blur the line between column and news article. Some folks will surely herald it as a masterful, but it just left me cold.
Let’s start with the quote I pulled out. I’m wondering how something can be liberal, but still be racially segregated. Wouldn’t segregation pretty much eliminate the whole liberal definition? Sure, the folks at the Vineyard may like to drive hybrids and wear hemp, but if they can’t stand to be around people of different races, then I’m going to question their liberal bonafides.
There is also the attempt to pretend that segregation in the Vineyard was a byproduct of the standoffish attitude some rich black folks naturally possess (Damn those uppity [negroes]!). The author points out that even when black people first started coming to the island in 1912 they kept to themselves.
Wait, you mean that in 1912, when lynchings and the like were a normal form of justice, black folks coming to a majority white environment stayed to themselves? Despite all the white folks welcoming them into their homes with open arms. You [negroes] know you have some nerve!
Then there is the idea that blacks and white people get along fine, but they just don’t socialize. Huh? Ok, quick quiz for y’all. If I’m married to a woman and I tell you we get along fine, but don’t socialize, what are you going to think? Yeah, you’re going to think I’m either a liar or an idiot and avoid me either way.
The article continues its confusing logic by explaining to us that the black folks who visit the Vineyard “aren’t assimilationist; they’re ascensionist.” The fact that they rapidly attempt to assimilate various aspects of white culture into themselves isn’t a bad thing, it’s proof that they are only truly concerned with self-advancement.
I get it. If you only assimilate because you understand that’s the best way to succeed, you’re OK. It’s only when you assimilate because you actually think white folks are better, that there is a problem. Lacking morality is much better than being confused. Much, much better.
I was also treated to an explanation of how hard life is for bourgie black kids. Apparently, other black people don’t want to be your friends when you refuse to hang out with them because they are poor, dark-skinned or too religious. These black folks have the nerve to question your “blackness,” which is always an affront even if you admit that you are doing your best to distance yourself from the popular stereotypes about what represents blackness. Imagine that, people don’t like you because you think they are inferior. That’s a novel concept indeed.
The author also manages to add some colorful quotes that affirm that white people don’t mind being called honkies (Make sure you write that down) and that black folks can be just as racist as anybody else (This info will come in handy during your next attempt to deflect conversations about race).
The climax of the piece is a story about how black and white residents of the Vineyard banded together to remove “loud [negroes]” from the island when they became a problem. It’s a heartwarming tale of joint discrimination based on class and race that will make everyone feel wonderful. Kinda like Birth of a Nation.
Look, I’m not a big fan of slamming folks for their writing cause Lord knows I make enough mistakes myself. But, this piece does more harm than good when it comes to race relations and informing the public about the black experience. I’m saddened by the way it presents black and white interactions, and I’m angered by the myths it promulgates.
Well, I hope the Obamas enjoy their vacation.