The dichotomy of perception: Rhizomatic epiphanies on black culture

One of the comments left on my last entry was what do I think about the following story. My answers are in blue the strory is in black. Peep game...

Black men quietly combating stereotypes


Twenty-year-old Chauncy Medder of Brooklyn says his baggy jeans and oversized T-shirts make him seem like "another one of those thuggish black kids." He offsets that with "Southern charm" he learned attending high school in Virginia - "a lot of 'Yes, ma'ams,' and as little slang as possible. When I speak to them (whites), they're like, 'Hey, you're different.'"

I touched on this issue (slightly) in my response to an entry on Tyra Banks over at Mixed Media Watch. The ability to “Code Switch” that was brought up by another blogger is definitely something that I will address here. Like “qualifiacation” (cultural barometer) which is used to send signals about an individuals cultural temperament, the “code switch” is a practice used by black people to communicate across cultures by adjusting his/her cultural posture to a more favorable stance for the intended receiver. In the case above the youth “offsets” his “thuggish” appearance by means of diction. His code switch exists in a world of “duality” where certain black cultural postures are predetermined (by white “mainstream” systematically reinforced stereotypical thought)- Dress, speech, physical appearance, and can be countered to some extent by the “Plug in” which is the ability to speak in terms that “white” people have determine as proper. We are working with several mechanisms when we discuss this process, Visual, Cultural, Psychological, and many more processes all work within this spectrum. How do “we” define this offset? Many have called it acting white, some call it “toming”, some say its just acting respectable, responsible, the right thing. What is applicable no matter what term you use to describe the process that blacks use to communicate with white people either directly, in the vicinity of, in public, or where ever is the fact that blacks must verify there stance socially. This constant validation is apparent within the “system”. I am non-threatening. I can speak proper english. I can dress like you. Are all forms of providing the existing system (white) with a means of data for the continued multifaceted critical inquiry of every black person they come in contact with based on “mainstream” standards. Everyday we hear this white person (insert jack ass here) refer to the ability to speak well for a reason; they assume that most blacks do not. It is this resistance to the ability to accept black people, black accomplishments, black life, black culture, that causes black people to “codeswitch” in the first place. Validation is achieved though adopting the “mainstream code” and being able to present it within a certain set of parameters determined by white people.

"If you're a black man who doesn't smile a lot, they (whites) get really nervous," he said. "There are black people I run across all the time and they're always smiling particularly when they're around white people. A lot of white people find that very comforting."

I have seen this very often and many times have felt serious contempt (in my younger days) for the individual performing the “Mr Bojangle’s” for said group of white people. The constant need for black people to present a non threatening “presence” in the face of skepticism, leads me to believe that the cousin to privilege (or its result) is guilt. Meaning that in particular situations the effects of “white supremacy” triggers in many whites the notions of the “angry black man” (rightly so) and cause them to fear said individual inherently based on their cultural guilt. This is a lot of baggage and is not to be taken lightly, it is this guilt which triggers some of the scenario’s many blacks must entertain if they wish to “get ahead” within a particular system. Hence the need to overcompensate in the face of “whitey”. I have seen and continue to see blacks control their diction, mannerisms, all of their physio/socio output to keep white people comfortable. It even comes down to the foods we eat; I have seen black people eat what their white counter parts eat to “create bridges”. Well lets just say some bridges are better left uncrossed…What good can come about if we are continually forced to endure this “cultural oppression”, this perpetual validation in the face of white people only goes against what its is we want the most.
Freedom without the caveat…

This is a key factor in the true process of self actualization for black culture. The letting go of the need to prove to white people that we can act “civilized”. Who came about with the notion that “whites” are the mean within the standard deviation of civility? By continuing the process of validation (induced cultural psychosis) we indirectly (directly) cede our cultural identity to white people (who have their own cultural psychosis to deal with).
The ability to adapt is natural, this is what has brought us (our collective world) to where we are today. There is nothing “miraculous” in the ability to codeswitch and in reality it only goes on to fuel condescending mainstream notions that perpetuate this condition in the first place. What is needed is a new synapse a new growth, existing on the fringe is chaos the stuff we don’t know about so we rely on old paradigms. It’s time to blow that shit out, you have puffed now it is time to give. The shift is the release of old ‘forms of thought’ and making sure you release all of it’s subsystems as well. The very notion of this article explains this need. Why should I act in a manner that you deem necessary? We are on the wrong path and subservience is not the way vilification. The skepticism, (masked racism) the surprise in the face of cultural communicative compatibility (blatant racism), the need for validation (operational racism) are just many of the culturally condescending environments that black people operate in. Commercial electrical power (for the most part) operates on 3 phases to get you the consumer to the point of being able to turn on the “switch” in your house and have “light”. This analogy works right along with the “white power system” that is in effect all around us; the 3 phases; Masked, Blatant, and Operational/Institutional all operate simultaneously to provide the customer (white people) with power, the ability to turn off and on the lights whenever they desire, but who pays they bill?

The sheer audacity of the title “Black men quietly combating stereotypes” says a lot about the cultural servitude of blacks in a “discreet” or “pc” manner; as if to say that these black people are trying to do good in the face of adversity and you (white people) should take it easy on the code switchers. This reminds me of several Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings where he inserts “HOBO codes” into his works of art, the term in particular is “NOTHING TO BE GAINED HERE” like a hobo’s way of saying move along and look for greener pastures. This story is for whites not blacks, and should be looked at as another tool for the quantification of their “cultural barometer”.

Black men quietly; those three words for most the part would appear to be an oxymoron to most white people, but when you add the ending; combating stereotypes you can see the effects of the ongoing cultural edema. How are you going to “quietly combat” anything? That’s right in tune with the “Non Violent Revolution” (Malcolm X). These are “hobo codes” used by the mass media to let the consumers know when and how to turn on the power of “mainstream thought”.

Every day, African-American men consciously work to offset stereotypes about them - that they are dangerous, aggressive, angry. Some smile a lot, dress conservatively and speak with deference: "Yes, sir," or "No, ma'am." They are mindful of their bodies, careful not to dart into closing elevators or stand too close in grocery stores.

What we are witnessing in this article is not only the “framed” struggle of the black man to live up to “his potential” but the continued application of “power” in plain sight. This story proves that 1. White power does exist. 2. Black people operate in a system of white power. As of late there have been many stories to the effect/plight of the black man in society. I think what needs to be assessed first before we critique the focus group are the controls of the project and who emplaced them. The continual banter of I can be “just like you” is superfluous when you take away the need, take away the power, and connect on a common plane. Let’s all be post modern thinkers here for a minute, and ask the question of why in this day and age would you publish something like this?

The Nick Cannon factor: This is by no means a slight on my boy Nick this is just an example: For most “progressive white people” Nick Cannon is cool, he’s funny, he has some hip-hop inside but its “cool”. Hell he cant be that bad he was on nickleodian so he “cant be a threat”. When necessary, Nick’s star power is used to define “acceptable black norms” within the power system. Look at many of the premier black performers and study the “codeswitch” and its application in the maistream, then look at how whites view this particular black star. Ask a white person and you will hear the result in their particular answer.

Every day, African-American men consciously work to offset stereotypes about them - that they are dangerous, aggressive, angry. Some smile a lot, dress conservatively and speak with deference: "Yes, sir," or "No, ma'am." They are mindful of their bodies, careful not to dart into closing elevators or stand too close in grocery stores.
It's all about surviving, and trying to thrive, in a nation where biased views of black men stubbornly hang on decades after segregation and where statistics show a yawning gap between the lives of white men and black men.

I could go on, but I think for the most part you see my overall theme of “these stories really aint saying shit we don’t already know”. And the reason is; its for white folks plain and simple. Think long and hard when somebody criticizes/analyzes any body and look for the truth, and the motivation behind the criticism/analysis. Scolding the black community, calling on blacks to own up to (insert self righteous bullshit here), or giving praise to the "good Kneegrows" is just too damn easy.

Holla atcha boy!