In a previous post I began discussing the “culture of dependency,” a term used by a CNN writer to discredit social programs and infer that people on these programs are addicted to poverty. This series explores the ignorance of that thought and exposes the truth about America’s culture of dependency: that it is not created because people access (or abuse) these programs, but by the fact that they most have no choice but to utilize these programs at some point in their lives.
In the last post in this series, I discussed The Trap of poverty that all too many Black Americans find themselves held captive within. Many dont even realize they are in The Trap of poverty because they are not homeless or starving. Since they have not reached the extreme expressions of poverty they see themselves as poor; however most are living one paycheck or one assistance program away from destitution. The only way out of The Trap or to avoid it all together is to learn The Game.
The Game is built on two generally accepted delusions. The first being that anyone in this country can accomplish anything they want if they work hard. The second is that life in America is built on equality and justice for all.
The detriment of Black Americans buying into such notions leads them to The Trap. To assume that in a capitalist society with a history of slavery and human exploitation an individual only has to be educated, intelligent, hardworking, and/or persistent is ludicrous. This idea lends itself to the thought that, somehow on the good faith of society and despite the conflict of interests, the less fortunate of this country will be afforded an opportunity to compete with and accomplish as much as the most successful people. That’s just not the American way.
Black Americans must realize that the system is not set up for them to prosper and in order to beat those odds we must be strategic and calculating.
America has become a country of appearances and accepted delusions. Every Black person must first accept this fact. One of those delusions is that the color if one’s skin, one’s appearance, and one’s socioeconomic status does not matter.
A Black person cannot totally disassociate themselves from the Black community or they risk losing the kind of necessary support that only the Black community can give them. They cannot afford to become so entrenched in Black life that they cannot see the potential and possibilities that lie intentionally out of reach.
To successfully navigate the American board game, Black people have to walk that thin line between being Black and being American. One of my undergraduate professors called it being “strategically Black.” What it means is recognizing that you don’t have to flaunt your Blackness to embrace it. At all times you are Black (and proud of it) but you are aware that while there is nothing wrong with loving who you are, America will not always understand your Blackness nor will they always love it. And that has nothing to do with what you can or cannot accomplish.
Being Black in America requires, as W.E.B. DuBois put it, a “double consciousness.” Black Americans cannot afford to forget that they are Black. We cannot afford to not be aware of how we look through the non-Black gaze of the rest of the country. Learning to move in and out of non-Black spaces is the objective of The Game.
The Game of being Black & American requires that we be able to connect and relate to non-Black Americans. Recognizing the universal nature of what it means to be American or just being human. With that we develop an understanding of the limits that other nationalities may have in understanding the nuances of being Black. That isn’t accomplished by being stereotypical: shucking and jiving under the mystery of our Blackness, serving the exotic nature of our roots up to the world as some forbidden fruit, or aggressively demanding concession for our cultural differences, or constantly trying to “teach” the world about being Black in order to prove that it’s okay.
At the same time that we are in connection with the great universal connection of humanity, we must specifically connect to other Black people. One if the saddest things I have witnessed is the degradation of unity in the Black community. We now focus on highlighting all the ways we are not typically Black and how, in some way, we are the token who wears Black skin but doesn’t live a Black life. We see this all too often: Black people who hate soul food because “it’s greasy,” Black people who refuse to eat fried chicken or watermelon, Black people who constantly explain how they’re not from the ghetto or are not ghetto, Black people who places to live or frequent by counting how few Blacks are there, Black people who emphasize how refined their speech is or how educated they are. These subtle disassociations from stereotypical Blackness are divisive and breed a silent devaluing of what it means to be Black. When in fact none of those things, regardless of whether a Black person is or is not/does or does not associate with them, makes them any better or worse than the next Black face.
When you understand the game, you realize that it’s more about perception than fact. Illusions are created to manipulate perception. The ideology America feeds us is an illusion and the game is all about mastering the art of manipulating perception while never actually believing the illusion yourself. When Black understand that their entire reality will change.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin’,
An Angry Black Man