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Cut the Power to Color-ism

by Rodney Dale Swope

· Gospel's Mystery
broken image

I am an African American man. You can look at me and tell that. You know how I got here. I proudly embrace my African heritage. I am proud to be an American and work with passion to make America's promise of freedom, life and liberty become the truth for every man and woman in our great nation.

I won’t be "Black" no more! Black is a color and one that doesn't effectively describe me. I am brown-kinda dark caramel chocolate to be more accurate. Sometimes after a week in Caribbean sun I become a darker hue, maybe dark chocolate. Whatever color I am on the pan-tone scale does not define me, my rights, potential nor class in this nation. These things become true as I learn, work, strive and even fight to achieve and make a difference in the world.

So why should accept being black? I've never seen a black person. Though I've seen some very dark descendants from Africa. That brother we call "Blue" ain't even black. The very darkest I've seen are still dark brown. In fact, I've never seen a white person. I've seen some very pale people. Even they are still somewhere between beige and pink. Even my albino friend is not quite white. How did anybody become white anyway? As Ta-nehisi Coates inquiries, "What were they before they were white (Coates, 2015)? They were immigrants, outsiders without privilege, class, or preference." They were Irish, Italian, German, Jewish, Spanish, European, etc. They had to work, and fight to be white. Some arrived and traded in their "other-outsider" membership cards for "white" ones.

"White" is social-economic construct with implicit preference, privilege and power. Who would not want to be white if therein is the conscious and subconscious connotation of better, purer, richer, and more powerful. I love Ali's interview where he tells the story of asking his mother as a boy, "why is white always good and black is always bad? Angel food cake is white, devil food cake is dark, if you con somebody it’s called blackmail if you tell an innocent lie its call a white lie." He could have, and so could I go on ad nauseam with such examples in the American vernacular. The pervasiveness of such value-laden pejorative colloquialisms suggests that an inherent acceptance of its root intent is deeply embedded into the American psyche. We have ingested these notions, corroborated to make them self-evident. Both the people who gladly think they are white and those of us who accept being black make it normal, thus make it true.

African Americans have a proud history of taking the negatives attributed to us and transforming them into counter cultural positives. Affirmative re-definitions like James Brown's anthem, "I'm Black and I'm Proud", "Black Power", "Black is beautiful", "my N-word", and even the proud transformation of the residual trash from the pig roast resulting in the cultural delicacy we know as "Chitterlings", are all examples of our coping mechanism to make lemonade with the lemons we get. When, still black is not beautiful unless it’s the color of something we make, own or wear. We are not black anyway. We are still every shade of brown from high yellow to jet brown, but still not black. We can't overcome the preponderance of negatives associated with a people who ascribe to us the label "Black." Perhaps we just need to stop giving life to it with our voices. Black, too is a social economic construct intended to order the world into simplified stereotypes.

We must also refrain from breathing life into the class called White. White is clearly code for those in power, the class of the oppressor, or at a minimum the class of privileged. Of course not every person of European descent, or those who look like what we call “white” are privileged, oppressive, or even powerful. Yet, if we keep whiteness alive, those people, too will become white one day. The awakened caucasian must surrender and renounce whiteness. I prefer to refer to them as European American or whatever "continent of origin-American." I am a proud African American. Should I be a proud person of color? If so, who are the people without color? I suppose they are the ones with all the power. I wonder if they want some color, too, and I won't ever be safe from theft on the isle of colored. Color me gifted, blessed, industrious and significant.

Let's let the class of preference, privilege, and power be attributed to every American who strives to achieve the American dream. I won’t be black no more, and I won’t call anybody white. I can no longer separate white from supremacy, oppression, and systemic ethnicide. I am a proud African American in a nation where Western Europeans have for centuries held more of the power. To get my share I don't need to become white, just stronger, smarter and more determined to win. I will appropriate faith, wisdom, and creative power of my great African heritage and the innovative spark fueled by 400+ years of heritage in the land of American opportunity. I won't be black no more. I will rise and launch my future generations to higher levels achievement, ownership, cultural contribution. Not by the color of my skin but the content of my character.

Cut the Power to Color-ism.

Coates, T. (2015). Between the world and me. Text Publishing.