Thursday, October 18, 2012



There were two boxers from Mexico years ago who had a super-intense rivalry.  They fought each other three times with both fighters splitting the first two and now the third fight was approaching.  The cliché, “these two guys really don't like each other” was apt, as these two guys did not like each other and fought like it.  In fact, the resemblance to Ali-Frazier rivalry was an equally appropriate comparison, as many of the insult they hurled between each other were not only personal, but on a level that those who were outside of their loop of cultural identification and ethnicity could not adequately understand the hatred these two men had for each other.

African-American’s tend to believe that the experience we have had in America is unique in the sense that no one, not even President Bill Clinton, can feel our collective pain.  Never have I understood the logic… individually, no, I do not think that you can “feel my pain” just as I cannot feel yours.  But it is when it is seen through the macro-perspective, that any sentient being can grasp the pain and injustice that African-Americans have had to endure in America.  But, we are not the only ones who have had to put up with the social injustices and the internecine social contradictions within or ethnic group.  So listening to these two Mexican fighters hurl “yo’ Momma-level” insults at one another, I knew that not only was it personal, but their beef was at a fundamental level of ethnic identity.

In Mexico, there apparently is a slur that indicates you are “a field n*gger”, and the word used here was “Indian”.  You could tell that it was meant to be indicative of a lack of sophistication, understanding and class.  The other fighter was a college graduate and family was renowned in Mexico City, and considered to be a “white Mexican”, and a part of the upwardly mobile class.  But I think that it would be difficult if not impossible, particularly with a brother (or sister) around my age and older, to understand that we are not the only one who “split hairs” amongst ourselves, picking between variations that are only of significance to “us”.  There was a lot of “house n*gger, field n*gger” in the rivalry between Ali and Frazier, and I have always been a “Frazier guy”, because I understood where his frustration came from.  The excellent HBO documentary “One NationDivisible” does a great job in capturing the frustration that Joe Frazierfelt, as the "darky" to Muhmmad Ali's more "true" representation of blackness.  And just as it is with so many things promoted to purport one way of thinking, middle-class Muhammad Ali’s experience was less common than that of Smokin’ Joe’s.  If you were to have measured which one of the two had the more “authentic” black experience, the case is there for Smokin’ Joe to lay claim to that title.  But history tells a different story and while I have all the respect for the greatness of Ali and his amazing legacy, the injustice done to Joe Frazier is one that occurs all too-often.

The Mexican fighters and their fierce dislike for one another confirmed something that I had suspected … that other ethnic groups had their own “Willie Lynch Legends” to account for.  Colorism is not something that we, as African-Americans, own exclusively.  The reason we are not as aware of them as we are of the other myths that exists about each other is that these are things that reside within the family, and that for African-Americans, it was used as pretext to justify the system of white supremacy here in the United States.  For many sisters and brothers, there is no reason to discuss the significance of characteristics that are so second natures that one is not even paying any attention to it… slipping in and out of a role as easily as a Texas native who has spent their adult life in New York quickly falls back into their drawl.  And if they don’t, the kind of cynicism they avail themselves is similar to the incredulity of the cowboys in the Pace Salsa commercial when they learn the stuff they are using was made in New York City.  This dichotomy mostly goes unaddressed within a community, especially when it reveals something inconvenient about the group.

Joe Frazier’s dislike for Muhammad Ali is rooted in something far, far deeper than sports.  Frazier would have fought Ali as hard as he did FOR FREE if Ali had said some of the same things he did to his face AND after he helped him on his feet?  No, this was not about the money or even being a World Champion for Joe Frazier… it was for something that meant far more than just material trinkets and supposed public prestige and riches.  It was about what defined him as a human being and THAT is why he pushed himself to fight Ali to inner reaches of human endurance.  Now that we have taken over the perpetual suppression of African-Americans and their cultural representation in America, we can hate ourselves just fine, thank you very much.  Not only that, just look at how we tear and rend each other’s flesh… no problem, from the nihilism of music to our inconsistent social order, we will be just fine down here in the dregs of society… oops, there is another ethnic group passing us in political and social influence now!  Never mind, we will consume and provide markets for the global corporations from now until the end times really do arrive!!

One of the things about my ramblings, and I feel that I have been repeating this too often (an insecurity, perhaps??) is that I never claimed that this was an exercise in intellectual, academic discussion.  What goes on here is merely the first draft of something that has to be strained and boiled down before it becomes “policy”.  And even with things that are policy and discussed here, it is still open for amending.  And yet, when it comes to frankly discussing racial dynamics, and more importantly, INTRA-racial dynamics, African-Americans tend to close ranks, which would be alright IF as a group, it was to question and consider an issue.  Instead, or so it seems to me, ranks are closed in the same way any dysfunctional group or organization closes ranks (since there was a big story about the Boy Scouts on the radio, we will use them as example) only to protect itself and perceived image, often at the expense of those who either suffer and /or are victims due to institutional neglect.  F*ck that.

The only reason I cannot say that I have never given a sh*t about what “black people” think of me is that I might have had a glimmer of a thought when I was a pre-schooler.  For sure when I got called either “yellow” or “white boy” by a darker hued kid, especially post “Roots”, I gave less a f*ck about what a supposedly “sister” or “brother” called me or referenced me in accordance to what they observed about my skin tone.  If only for the want of an “F-bomb” as a child!  Anywho, the women who feel that my opinions on African-American relationships are somehow invalid because I am now involved with a white woman are simply misguided and closed minded.

First of all, African-Americans are the WORST kind of “colorists” that there are.  Those who are darker, and seem to project the “pro-black agenda” also seem to be the ones who are among the first to “switch” rather than “fight”.  Ain’t that right Kanye?  And I still have not gotten it straight with Michael Jackson (r.i.p), whom conveniently (least to me) developed rosacea when it was alledged that he went in for skin lightening treatments, to say nothing of the “family package” that the Jackson got in plastic surgery…

But see, that is alright.  Just as it is alright with any number of situations and conditions where the definition for “blackness” is conveniently massaged and altered, so that it can include the parts of someone that is celebrated and ignore the “less-than-good” about them. 

Colorism in the African-American community reinforces and internalizes the old Jim Crow rules about segregation, but it comes with a bitter twist. Because it is from the side that I feel that I am standing on, the surprise of the kind of “friendly fire” I have been receiving lately is what makes it seem worse.  “I have met the enemy and it is us,” could have been Pogo talking about the African-American community, but I think I have rambled on long enough about that.  What I hoped to illustrate was the pointlessness and contradiction of African-Americans wanting to dissolve the prejudices held against the group, but alternatively still reinforcing an internal segregation, projecting it outward in a Bizzaro-style ideation that would allow us the social mobility in society while maintaining a “racial integrity”, where we only mated and loved other AA’s.

Because it is going to be a part of my wrap-up of this particular thought trend.  This has been a long week, and for me, dealing with what is at the heart of this for me, whether “Miss What’s Happening” happens to be white (as Princess is) or African-American is actually among the secondary factors in determining who I would want to be with.

1 comment:

Ken Riches said...

Sucks that you even need to have to try an explain any of this...