Sunday, September 23, 2007

To the White Progressive Blogosphere...

**Read BlackAmazon.**

When I was younger, I used to spend lots of time on my outward appearance.

Artfully applying makeup so the perfect face would show.

Choosing just the right outfit to make the best of my "good" features, to downplay my not-so-good 0nes.

Practicing my syrupy, southern voice so that my words would sound "right"--no matter what I was saying.

And my inimitable grandmother would look at me and say, "Your slip is hanging."

Meaning, my foundation, the base upon which I built all that artifice, wasn't in order.

Shall I explain what I'm getting at?

Do you know these people? Aside from the fact that they were unbelievably brave and principled?

Do you ever wonder why Rosa Parks instead of Claudette Colvin (who'd refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, AL, bus nine months before Mrs. Parks?) was the face of the Montgomery bus boycott?

Do you ever wonder why this picture of Elizabeth Eckford remaining composed in the face of Hazel Massery's vitriol was such an important image to promote?

Do you ever wonder why sit-in participants had to be so well-dressed, so calm, so "respectable?"

Well, of course you know. The people who would be the face of the Civil Rights Movement had to be virtually blameless. They couldn't give white bigots fodder to dismiss them or the movement. They had to tread a line between being the human face of the movement while upholding super-human reputations and faithfully remaining non-violent.

It was a lot to expect, this demand for perfection, this unspoken implication that African Americans had to be more than human, had to prove themselves worthy of fair treatment, of justice.

But I believe it was necessary then, to stave off attacks from enemies of the movement. Because a flaw, a sign of poor judgment, an episode of human error could be used to question the validity of not only the people involved, but the movement itself.

Well, skip ahead half-a-century, and AAPP makes an observation that struck a chord within me, that "white liberals and white bigots seem to agree."

See, when faced with the question of how the hell can you be so silent in the face of injustice, of unequal treatment, of blatant racism, rather than admit you dropped the ball* or more importantly, that you just didn't get it, you reached back and borrowed those old techniques for impugning the movement.

You can't support the Jena Six (or issues this highlights) because there is no hero?

For people who didn't know much about the Jena Six, suddenly you were awfully concerned about offenses for which Mychal Bell had been convicted.

And you focused on the MAJOR point of "was the slogan really effective/correct/what I would've chosen?"

And you referenced the old, "I just can't understand what they're saying!" I was honestly boggled by the "But... but... I couldn't get clear information" and "Little comprehensible info was published about it."

Oh,and "Well they've been telling us we can't stand for them!" No, you can't. But you can stand with us.

Even if you don't, guess what? We're still going to see and fight the injustice in the treatment of this child:

Whether you think he's a hero or worthy of the effort or not.

And for the other five of our children that you've thrown under the bus--you know, the ones you've convicted even though at least two of them say they did not participate in the fight? The ones who you just know are guilty and that's the other reason you "can't get behind this?"

We're going to press for justice for them, too. They deserve it. They are worth it.

As to all your excuses, your demands for a hero, your offensive "I don't understand?"

I'm saying, "Y'all's slip is hanging."

Get your purportedly progressive foundation in order.
*For example, when it came to posting about the Dunbar Village case and the physical and sexual assault upon Megan Williams, I dropped the ball, trying to wait until I could compose some analysis. I was wrong. I can admit that.

Read this, too!


Sylvia/M said...

Now this is how you drop some good old-fashioned knowledge. Wonderful analysis because it's not about what people didn't see; it's what they refused to see.

Professing Mama said...

Bravo, elle. I had been thinking some of these same thougthts (especially after listening to NPR on Friday), but didn't know how to frame it. Thank you for reminding everyone about dropping the ball or not being in the game in the first place (to continue the metaphor).

Unknown said...

Elle, for real. I'm a damn pacifist. I don't for a minute agree with kids beating the shit out of each other, and honestly, I hold the "leaders" of the movement responsible for thinking that since we got the right to vote, that must mean that our children no longer need training in survival strategies like non-violent resistance. This should be the third generation of children that know how to perform non-violent tactics like covering each other up when they are being assaulted and never traveling alone, etc. I hold our elders (me included) responsible for abandoning our children to our own sense of helplessness and need to be middle class respectable. And within that, i don't think *any* of the kids who were fighting or threatening or abusing should be let off scott free.

but the simple fact that white bloggers hold black kids up to this unattainable standard--if you retaliate in any way, you *deserve* to rot in jail for 25 years--the simple fact that they are patently unaware of or unable to grasp the historical *context* of racist violence in the u.s.--I don't know. Since I have been blogging, it's been a non-stop shit storm of defensive posturing and much too late apologies, over and over and over again. I don't much fucking *care* if these bloggers "don't get it" or "dropped the ball"--i care about introspection and self awareness, and both of those things are patently lacking. Patently lacking *over and over and over* again.

Ion Eyes said...

(I got here from Shakesville.)

Thank you -so much- for this. I got sidetracked into a law-and-order discussion on my blog with a few of my (white) friends. (I am also white.) I just couldn't articulate why they were wrong, and this is what I was thinking but couldn't explain. I don't know if this will get through their privilege, but I can hope.

Kate said...

Well said, as always, Elle. You rock.

oyster said...

Great points.

Kimberly said...

As always, you manage to articulate what I've been trying (but failing) to point out.

Unknown said...

I'm one of those white progressive bloggers, and I'm glad you said this, because it articulates the very frustration I was expressing when discussing this over at Pandagon and Shakesville. I also said a bit about it at my place, but from a slightly different perspective.

Kai said...

Great post, Elle. And great comment, BFP. You know, some of these liberal folk are just plain ridiculous.

Kevin Andre Elliott said...

That's what I'm talking about, Elle. This is great.

Professor Zero said...

Good post.

Problem: everyone needs a class in history and I guess one in logic, and perhaps a little more respect for the law?

The case is not about Mychal Bell's level of virtue. The people who are trying to make it so are just trying to derail the discussion, and go way off point.

Bell having 'priors' does not make it all right to hang nooses about the place.

Nor does his having 'priors' make it all right to trump up charges in the current matter.

As in: rape victims who were not virgins are still rape victims.

Etc. But you're right: the expectation is that if you're Black you must be superhuman.

elle said...

Thank you. I worried about putting into words what I was thinking.

Brian, I'm looking forward to reading your post.

Elegance said...

Yes, we shouldn't let people on the fence sidetrack the rest of us. Excellent post. If things are not perfect or up to some unattainable standard then people will dismiss a visible minority (or woman) who is wronged. They find ways to justify to themselves that they deserved the excessive mistreatment because of something totally unrelated. They try to denigrate someone's character even though they were fighting for something honorable. If Mychal Bell didn't have previous convictions, would that have really made much of a difference to the people who are against the Jena 6? I don't think it would have mattered at all. Its just something to distract us with.

Five Before Midnight said...

Great post, Elle.


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