The Slave Mentality


I went to the poetry reading last night. There were some really good artists there so now yall get momentairly blessed with an excerpt from one of my poems before I get into the Blog

“…I’ll walk over, and pretend like I hadn’t planned it.

And even though my heart is pounding, and my legs are giving

I’ll pretend I can stand it.

I won’t ask her attention, I’ll demand it.

Django will fill my ears,

my demeanor is cool, even if my heart don’t know it

rejection and vulnerability will be my fears

and my body will fill with glee, just to be near

even if my face don’t show it.

Before I can even get my plan into gear

with her smile she’ll warn me “Don’t blow it.”…”

Go check out Shana’s poem. It’s tight. Check the blogroll. Anyway it reminded me of something I was thinking about the other day while watching Kings of Comedy. My boy Cedric (and when I say boy I mean my friend cause we like some play cousins) was talking about white people living by the hope creed, whereas black people live by the wish creed. And it made me think of something. Now I’m not making judgements here because I’m also guilty of the following, but it’s a habit I’m trying to break. But most black people identify their blackness or blackness in general in contrast to how they view white people, or how they think white people view them. Additionally We rarely make comparisons between us and other (American)minority races. If you turn on Comicview every comic that steps on the stage will make at least one joke (asuming his whole set isn’t) about what black people do in comparison to white people. But if you turn on comedy central you might find like one in 4 comics who makes a joke about how white people are lame compared to black people. I don’t believe it’s them trying to be politically correct. I think white people just don’t really care too much about black people’s view of them, but we are constantly concerned about white people’s view of us, and/or our view of us in comparison. I do believe that when white people think of themselves they think of themselves as an individual, not as whatever they are in opposition to/of whatever their black counterpart would be. I guess if we trace the roots to find the cause of the problem it’s because black people in America have evolved as an underprivledged race. Black people can’t truly idnetify with their African roots because we are not African. We are American like it or not, and we have more black American heritage than African. The black people who were brought here were taught to think of themselves as inferior. Even though we know today that this isn’t true, we still have to second guess it all the time. We’re constantly staring over our shoulders making sure that we aren’t inferior. With any human being if you make an attack on their self-esteem at a pivotal point in their growth you can change their perspective on life. Our growth began the day we set foot off a slave ship. One generation down the line after having been virtually stripped of our culture and homeland we ceased to be what we were and became something altogether different. Something that was and still is controlled by white men. White men still have all the money and all the power. Black men still can’t be president even though this is our country as much as anyone’s. I can remember very specifically the day I really started to identify with “being Black” For most of my life I only identified myself as Gian. I went to racially diverse schools (with a slight to radical swing in favor of white people) from first grade all the way through college. For most of those years I was very aware of the general differences in the races, and I like most people do gravitated more towards the black people at each stop but still maintained my self image without using black as one of the descriptors. If I were asked how someone else would describe me I probably would have given a bunch of adjectives that I would assume people feel about me, black being one of the last I’d come to merely for factual purposes. Well now things are different. Now black is one of the first things that comes to mind whether it’s self image or projected image. There was this girl I was seeing who I have written about before. I thought, and still think, very admirably of her. If you’ve ever met someone you just considered truly wonderful, and you wanted to be more like them because of it then you know what I’m talking about. One of the more important things to her was her race, and she embraced and reveled in her blackness. I guess it was as a result of this relationship that it became important for me to do so too. And now I don’t think I could ever be the way I was before. Fortunately I like most things about me so I’m comfortable sticking with this. Example: my first girlfriend (not counting when I was 5) was a white girl. At the present time I’m sure I could entertain grown up activities with a white woman, although it would be an extremely rare situation since I find most white women unattractive, but I’m sure I could never marry one. I don’t think a white woman could identify with me the way a black woman could. Anyway, all of this is tangent. I said all that to say that one of the main differences in my attitude adjustment was that in viewing myself as a black person I also started viewing myself in opposition to/of white people. I don’t wish to suggest that I’m militant or anti-white. In my formative years I made friends with, and still continue to make friends with (due to the fact I play basketball at Tulane’s gym) white people. But now, unlike when I was younger, White has more frequently become the standard of comparison instead of my ideal, perfect-self. And furthermore I have become increasingly aware of my own presence amongst white people and vice versa, and aware of their being aware of my presence and vice versa. As with most of the problems I present I don’t really have a practical solution. But I don’t really believe that this is the most problematic thing in black culture so it can be put on the backburner. All it really does is feed the super-white ego and simultaneously diminsh our own chance at defining self using only self. I guess that does sound kinda bad huh?


11 responses to “The Slave Mentality

  1. Not that u mentioned this…but I was just talking to my boss about this. Why is it that some black people have to defend their “blackness” to both white people AND black people? I’m sure white people haven’t been charged with the same. I don’t mind being placed in a category, as WE feel that we need to assign people some sort of classification, but sometimes, how we define ourselves as people, really grates on my nerves…if that makes any sense.

  2. Ahhh…I can feel you on this one. But sometimes it’s necessary to compare. For instance in talking about certain plights. Our skin tones definitely lend us specific plights and I think the problem is that we identify ourselves so much with the problems we deal with that it has bled over into other areas. We don’t think enough about the common threads that unite us so much as we do about problems that obviously divide us. Good post. I probably haven’t expressed myself quite the way I want to but it’s because I got a paper looming over my head. Hopefully I made some sense…

  3. Very good entry. You made some very interesting points (especially the part about comedy). I think the fact that blacks measure themselves by white view point goes beyond race. As humans, we tend to validate ourselves by the opinion of others. Where does this come from? I believe it’s instilled in us from childhood (as do many other things) b/c we are so use to our parents, teachers, preachers etc telling us what is right, wrong, good or bad and we take that into adulthood. If society views it as outside of the “norm”, then it ain’t right. I believe we as a human race all struggle with this, but ofcourse based on where blacks came from we have it 10 times worse.

  4. there’s a lot of truth in your words. the problem is that white people are in those upper management positions, they do the hiring, they decide who gets raises & promotions, they decide who gets business/homeowner loans & who doesn’t. this is partly why many of us are concerned with how we’re viewed by white people. the other reason is the slave mentality, like you said.

  5. This was a VERY good post! Best I’ve read all day actually. I can’t really argue with you in any way, b/c I agreed with exactly everything you said. You also covered some things I wasn’t aware of, as well.When you described your life’s before and after of the first time you remember making that transtion to “conciously embracing” your blackness (which is a better term I would use to replace “militant” or “anti-white” since you said you wouldn’t quite use those terms)…it reminded me A LOT of myself. However, my transition came about when I left home and went off to college rather then from a friend. It was my African studies professor who infulenced me. And our close relationship…him exposing me to so much knowledge I felt like my brain was going to explode (and me actually choosing to embrace it truthfully)…I guess that was pretty much my turning point. And like you, I don’t see myself as “miltant” or “anti-white” either, but as someone who chose to become concious to her culture, ancestry, and self, and effortly embrace it. That’s all…lol. B/c I wasn’t that way b/f I left HS for college. 🙂

  6. Drop on by and browse through a huge archive of your mom jokeThis is one of the many jokes i found amongst the many joke categorys:A man walks into his favorite bar and saw a bum panhandeling. The bum asked if the man could spare a dollar. The man replied “If I give you money are you going to use it to buy liquor?” The bum said he would not, so the man asked “If I give you money are you going to use it for gambling?” Again the bum said he would not, so the man asked “Would you come home with me so I can show my wife what happenes to someone who doesnt gamble or drink?”

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