January 25, 2013
by Kirsten West Savali
While perusing several of the hundreds of Django Unchained conversations happening on social media, I began to get this nagging feeling that just wouldn’t go away. It had nothing to do with the hatred hurled at Spike Lee or the brittle enthusiasm over Quentin Tarantino. It didn’t have anything to do with the film’s slant towards colorism and depiction of the White-Savior Complex as heroism — or even why the Tupac song at the end stopped right when I was getting into it.
All of that faded in light of the revelation that we — as in black descendants of slaves in America — converse as if we hate each other.
*And please skip the “Who is we?” question. If it’s not for you, the browse button is that way.*
Sambo, coon, n!&^, n!&a, and Uncle Tom have all been spoken with such a deep-seated hatred and resentment that I have literally recoiled from my screen at times — in disbelief, in dismay, in sadness. And it’s not just Django; any conversation that involves race spirals out of control so swiftly it’s as combustible as a lit match on gasoline. I asked myself, “Why are we using plantation language to insult one another?” “Why are all these black people fighting over a white man’s rendition of slavery, or a black woman sleeping with a white man (see: Scandal); or the infallibility (or cultural mirage) of a black president?” And the answer is simple:
Because some of us are still slaves.
Oh, the shackles aren’t there — for those of us not in the Prison Industrial Complex — but the damage has been done. And we are still divided into a contemporary version of what Ancestor Malcolm called House Negroes and Field Negroes.
There are those who have the mistrust and discernment of the field slave. They dig deep for motivation, intent, lurking dangers. Because of this, their vantage point is both clearer and cloudier than one “on the inside” and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get away from the Big House. Which leads us to the house slave. They may know what field slaves go through on a daily basis, but by virtue of something as arbitrary as genetics, they are able to distance themselves from the brutality, the blatant degradation — and because of proximity, their vision of freedom is not to flee the Big House, but to one day own the Big House.
This dichotomy dictates that we must be at odds for an inherently racist system to survive. Descendants of field slaves and house slaves don’t want to join forces because we’re so determined to prove to White America how un-alike we are that we’re afraid to be seen on common ground even for a minute. So while on the surface it may appear that we’re arguing over Scandal or Obama or Django, what the field slaves want to broadcast is that they’re not sell-outs and the house slaves are telecasting that they’ve bought in.
Am I lying?
We have to face it, people. “Even our conditioning has been conditioned.” And when people — like myself — bring it to the forefront, I get criticized for being divisive. Hell, we’re divided. And how else can we come together if we don’t first figure out why we’re apart? My motto for 2013 is:
Let’s be real so we can heal.
To begin the healing process, we need to talk to each other. And to do that , we have to stop attacking each other, so I’ve listed points to help us on the road to getting there.
1.) We are not enemies.
We may not all be friends, but we are not yet enemies. Speaking to another person with respect, even if you disagree with their opinion, goes a long way to ensuring a productive, mutually beneficial conversation.
2.) People may not always remember what you said, but they remember how you made them feel.
Dr. Maya Angelou had it right. If you approach a conversation as if you’re going into combat, people are going to put on their armor. If you attack, people are going to defend. Put people at ease and you’d be surprised what you can learn from each other.
3.) Everyone’s opinion has value.
If your goal is to prove how right, or smart, or “better” you are, walk away from the conversation immediately because you’re having it for the wrong reasons. Listen to opinions without prejudice. While it may not change your mind, it can’t hurt to have a multi-dimensional view of a single issue.
This is by no means an extensive list, but I guarantee if we try these three things, the quality of the conversations that we’re having on pivotal issues or those that lead to deeper understanding will dramatically improve. And, be honest, aren’t you tired of the fighting, Black people?
Posted By: Siebra Muhammad
Saturday, January 26th 2013 at 7:35PM
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