Thursday, November 15, 2007

Insert slogan here

Yesterday NPR's Morning Edition began with this segment about a poll that had been conducted regarding perceptions of the black community in the United States. The article expands on a lot of information in the poll, but the radio segment focuses on the conclusion that the poll draws that black people in America no longer see themselves "as one race." Steve Inskeep (the host) and Juan Williams clarify that in the poll "not seeing themselves as one race" is akin to seeing themselves as not having the same economics or same values, rather than not having the same skin color.

It was really strange for me to hear this on NPR. Is it really news that all black people are not the same in their values and economics? The article does a better job of framing the poll, saying that television and popular culture portrays black people as having only one set of values, but black people do not see themselves this way. I was really upset, however, when Inskeep asked (something like) "So do middle and upper class blacks seem to get closer to whites in their values?"

Just as black people are not a homogeneous group of people, white people are also divided in their values and along class lines. Inskeep's question implies that all whites are middle and upper-class, which erases a large portion of white people in America who are poor.

According to the article,
72 percent of whites, 54 percent of blacks, and 60 percent of Hispanics agree that in the last 10 years, "values held by black people and the values held by white people (have) become more similar."

I think that this perception is wrong, not because there are not shared values between people of different races, but because, like Inskeep's question, this perception rests on that there is such a thing as "white people values" (or "black people values").

Many historians have written about the Jim Crow laws in the south as not only a reflection of racist attitudes of the time, but an attempt to maintain and fuel racist attitudes particularly in poor white people. These historians argue that poor white people and emancipated slaves had much in common, namely the conditions of poverty, and that people in power were afraid of unity between the two groups erupting into a class war.

It's a good step to recognize that there are class divisions within the African American community (as obvious as I think this is, I'm still glad it's being said). An even better step would be to recognize that those same class divides exist throughout the country, regardless of race.

In more local news from yesterday, first-year Alex Cortes had a piece in the UVA newspaper, the Cavalier Daily, in support of shouting "not gay" during The Good Old Song at football games. For those of you who aren't from Charlottesville, when UVA scores a touchdown, the fans sing The Good Old Song in celebration. There is a verse about everything being bright and gay at Virginia, after which some people (fewer and fewer, I hear) shout "not gay."

My sister Caitlin sent me Cortes' opinion piece this morning explaining how hilarious and sad it was all at once, and it really has to be read to be believed.

Anyway, here is my little response (which I may or may not send to him; you can vote! But I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter because he seems the type to google his name on a regular basis [see last paragraph of his article]).

Dear Alex,
You want to shout "Not Gay" at football games during the good old song? Fine, whatever, I don't really care. But you're going to have to accept that in shouting "not gay" you are aligning yourself with idiots and assholes. And do you want to know the reason that is the case? Because as much as you might want it to be, shouting a catch phrase is not an intellectual argument. I don't care if "not gay" is supposed to stand for "I am against the homosexual "lifestyle" for religious reason and I also am against sex between a man and woman before marriage." This is akin to saying that screaming "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you" to your parents at the age of 14 is an intellectual argument that is meant to convey "The differences between our ages makes it almost impossible for us to relate to one another. I am becoming an adult and I need more space and freedom."

However, I whole-heartedly invite you flesh out your "not gay" chant. At the next football game, try hysterically shrieking, "I am not gay because it says it's wrong in the bible and I also believe that men and women should only use the act of intercourse for procreation" if that is what you are really trying to say. I am sure all those people who have been staring at you and saying negative things at past football games will be completely won over by this "intellectual" argument.

Lifestylely yours,


Julia said...

Dude. Send it!

drh said...

Snort! You should totally send it in! (Not that I think the Cav Daily would publish it...)

As to your above remarks--I too find it frustrating about the elision of economic differences and similarities and their relationship to race. But at the same time, it doesn't surprise me that "wait? all blacks don't have the same values, what?" is news to a lot of people (because I know some people to whom that would be news). They recognize economic/class differences between whites, but can't or don't see the connection across color lines.

But if you look at what's going on these days--race is still, STILL! more relevant than class--purely economic populist campaigns and movements don't have the same resonance, because so many people still identify with race first, even if it is mostly unconscious or unrealized on their parts.

mom said...

Send it Rachie! Mom