In 1991, Howard University rested squarely in the hood.
Now, the university hasn’t MOVED, but think of the hood as a sort of tide that rises and encompasses areas, and other times recedes, leaving traces like flopping fish on the ground after a tidal wave. We we’re under water.
Along with hood, comes hood fixings. Familiar things that you’ve surely seen before: bad graffiti, low grade food, and trash that rolls like tumbleweeds. Another key element to the hood is an ever present lack of respect for it’s residents.
I used to believe people were confused about the meaning of words involving social justice. I figured when someone referred to any discussions about race as “racist” he or she was simply misinformed.
Now, I know better.
Some people have redefined words like “racist” in order to avoid talking about race. Others do so purposefully in order to maintain the power and privilege that come with being in a racial majority. And you can actually find people who are members of racial minorities in both of these groups, even when it works against their own best interests.
Reading Piyush Jindal’s article on the end of race, I’m lead to believe the Governor’s over-simplified and out-of-date ideas about race and how it’s lived are simply a function of his naiveté, and not a conscious effort to maintain racial inequity. Case in point, this quote:
“Under what logic would any intelligent, logical, or decent person give any thought to the pigmentation of a person’s epidermis? It’s nothing short of immoral, not to mention stupid…”
What about someone like me? I like my skin color. Does that make me “immoral” or “stupid” for doing so? I like my brown skin, my thick lips, the texture of my hair (though it only grows on the bottom and front parts of my head at this point in my life), and the association of “being Black” that comes with those physical features. I don’t like them because they make me feel superior to anyone who doesn’t share them; I like those things about myself, quite frankly, just because I like myself.
At the same time, I’ll purposefully avoid engaging in the same type of naiveté of which I’ve accused Governor Jindal, and make clear that I’m not pretending as if “race” is simply a set of “paint jobs” people have, which carry no further meanings or implications. It’s why I mentioned the association of Blackness in the above list. There are exceptionally clear and often vicious power dynamics at play when it comes to how we view race, and Blackness in particular. Jindal’s view ignores both the idea of race as a lived circumstance with complex power relationships, and the idea that people can engage with race in ways that are positive. There are many other ways to “live race” as well, but it is telling that the only one he addresses is racism. That’s short-sighted. But Jindals’s name itself may give us some insight into more nuanced ideas about race that could be floating around in his subconscious.
What’s in a Name?
Though he goes by “Bobby”, I’ve referred to Governor Jindal by his given name of Piyush. Jindal got the name “Bobby” because of his identification with Bobby Brady from The Brady Bunch, and has apparently been known as “Bobby” since the mid to late 70s. I don’t have any reason to doubt the governor’s story. At the same time, I can’t ignore the very common practice of choosing an American-sounding nickname by people whose given names don’t fit Western traditions, and the idea that “Bobby” is more electable in Louisiana than “Piyush”. He sure didn’t choose “Devante” or “Jadeveon”, two names that are as American as you could possibly get (how many Devantes and Jadaveons on this planet do you think aren’t American?). All jokes aside, being nicknamed “Bobby” has helped Americanize Governor Jindal in ways that move his perceived ethnicity away from Indian and toward European, with the racial implications of the shift being undeniable. And while I do find Jindal’s views about race unsophisticated, I don’t believe for one minute that he doesn’t understand how “Bobby” trumps “Piyush” in our society’s racial hierarchy. He’s a Rhodes Scholar. He didn’t use it to his advantage by accident.
The Melting Pot: How You Too Can Become White
Where Jindal’s opinion piece takes a turn for the sinister is in his stated desire to return to the concept of American being a “melting pot”. As far as antiquated ideas go, I thought the notion that destroying each individual American’s culture in order to create one undifferentiated new one had officially been thrown out. For people like me who enjoy our cultural heritages, I have no desire to give it up, hide it, or watch it get erased. There’s also the reality that the “default settings” for culture in the United States are White, male, Christian, heterosexual, middle-class, and able-bodied and minded. That is, when we don’t specifically address people’s cultural aspects, those become the assumed and prevailing ones. So what happens to “race” in the melting pot analogy is, everyone gets to become “White”, and “non-White” becomes “the other”. It’s why “Bobby” can be assumed to be culturally White and more electable, while “Piyush” is “not-White” and must therefore be melted away.
The Colorblind Society
In the sci-fi book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of the whimsical technological inventions is a pair of “peril resistant sunglasses” called the Joo Janta 200. At the first sign of danger, the sunglasses turn so dark, the wearer can no longer see through them. Completely blinded from danger, the wearer no longer has to worry about it. The social commentary of these glasses applies directly when it comes to Jindal’s desire to “end race in America”. By ending any discussion or even acknowledgement of race, Jindal implies, we can eliminate racism. What he and others who long for a “colorblind” society are really trying to end is the very real pain of honest and forthright discourse about race. I know just how difficult that process is, and I actually welcome it. I love race as a concept, I love my own racial characteristics, and I want a society in which those things can be embraced and celebrated, rather than erased and melted. I’m Black. And I like that about me.
Maurice “Mo the Educator” Dolberry has taught grades 6 through 20, and has worked at both public and independent schools from Minnesota to Florida to Washington and other places in between.Mauriceis currently an adjunct college instructor while working on his PhD in multicultural education at the University of Washington. He’s also a Black dude.
“At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN?
Psalms 109:8 – May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.”
When we think of Latin America, we think of a sprawling quilt of Hispanic cultures sewn in Spain. What we know much less about is the huge African-American population that has been in the region since the Spanish first brought African slaves there. premiers
“Upward of 120 million people of African descent live in Latin America today,’’ says Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who, even though he is a scholar of African-American history, says he was staggered by the number when he first learned of it.
On April 7th, the NAACP released a new report, Misplaced Priorities, that examines America’s escalating levels of prison spending and its impact on state budgets and our nation’s children.
Misplaced Priorities tracks the steady shift of state funds away from education and toward the criminal justice system. Researchers have found that over-incarceration most often impacts vulnerable and minority populations, and that it destabilizes communities.
When you think of racism, you immediately think of images of separation, usually with African Americans on one side and Caucasians on the other. Although that form of racism is still existent today, it is much more subtle than in past years. A particular form of racism that is highly present today is intra-racial racism, which is racism that occurs within race. This form of racism may be more offensive, harsh, and unapologetic than traditional racism because their is a common denominator of skin color.