Monday, February 13, 2012

Civil Rights 2.0 Redux

Some of you may notice that I posted this back in the wee days of my blog last February. A few people mentioned that it might be cool if I re-posted it in honor of Black History Month. My intention was to post this at the beginning of the month, so naturally, I procrastinated until the middle of the month.

I re-read this and decided that there was nothing I wanted to change. I still feel exactly the same as I did last year, and will probably feel the same next year.

So read up, if you care to. And share your thoughts, if you're so inclined. Thanks! - Steven

* * *

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X
I was a kid living overseas during the height of the civil rights movement in the late sixties and early seventies. I'm still not sure whether I consider myself lucky to have been away during that tumultuous period, or that I somehow missed out. I consider myself a progressive, even brave person and I'd like to believe that if the need had presented itself, I would've been right out there, waving a sign and doing my best to stick it to The Man with all the other angry, idealistic people.

Civil rights, or rather the idea of civil rights, seems so basic, so much of a no-brainer, that it shouldn't even still be an issue. But, of course, it is. We've all heard a variation of the story about how someone's cousin's best friend's wife's sister didn't get a job someplace doing some-such-thing because they were white and a minority quota had to be met because of Affirmative Action. That may be so. And it's unfortunate. No one should be denied employment because of their color. (I almost used the word 'race', but we're all one race, right? Anyone out there not human?) Truth be told, Affirmative Action is tantamount to reverse discrimination. But at that time in this country, discrimination was so pervasive that bigots had to be forced, by law, not to engage in racist practices, at least in the workplace. Rocky Redneck had to hire black folk whether he wanted to or not, sometimes to the detriment of his company (too bad, Rock).

That was then. And this is now.

Reading, listening, watching, thinking. As I've gotten older and experienced more, something has continued to bug me. How equal is equal? And what exactly do pundits mean when they claim they seek equality? Black civil rights activists have fought being singled out in a negative way in favor of being singled out in a positive way. But why be singled out at all? In an effort to foment inclusion, activism has perpetuated exclusion, even separatism. There was a time when the black community in this country had to band together and toot their own horn because no one else would. But in this day and age, why is it okay to have 'black' colleges, or 'black' night clubs, or 'black' TV shows? If an institution openly touted itself as being 'white', they'd be considered racist. When blacks do it, it's socially acceptable as 'black pride'.

I'm not saying that prejudice doesn't still exist. I'm not saying that there isn't still work to be done. But how long does the current generation of white people need to be held accountable for what their great-great-great-great ancestors did? How long should black people feel that they're still "owed" something? At some point, a generation needs to say, "Enough."  

Enough with the separatism. Enough with the sense of entitlement. If blacks want to be truly integrated into all aspects of mainstream society, the exclusivity needs to stop. To be clear, my opinion is as an observer and participant, not as an authority. I'm not a journalist or a cultural anthropologist, I'm just a guy who believes a little modernization of the civil rights dogma is overdue. Just as the U.S. Constitution was written nearly 250 years ago and has since been amended dozens of times to address changing times, the thinking of the 60s needs to progress wholly into the current millennium. It's not okay for any group to continue to spout they're own ethnocentric rhetoric in the name of civil rights. Rule of thumb: If any group would be considered racist for saying something, no one else should say it either.

Rosa Parks fought for her own seat, not her own bus.


  1. Being a bigot is a choice. Being black isn´t. We should have sympathy for the bigots because you and I have traveled extensively and so know better. The feeling of being a victim has everything to do with our own cognitions. It´s in our head, nowhere else.

    Thanks for sharing your point of view!


  2. Quote:
    "I'm not saying that prejudice doesn't still exist. I'm not saying that there isn't still work to be done. But how long does the current generation of white people need to be held accountable for what their great-great-great-great ancestors did? How long should (black)*(for example)jewish* people feel that they're still "owed" something? At some point, a generation needs to say, "Enough."

    similar discussion in germany concerning world war 2.

    I am not sure either.
    Sometimes, i think it is never enough.
    We should never forget, as soon as we start to forget, we forget to learn/what we learned.

  3. I like this post a lot. Thanks for posting it again @Steven!

  4. I may get slammed for this, but I wish somebody would explain to me why it's OK for "ethnic" groups to have their own clubs, organizations, months, colleges, etc. But when Caucasians do it, it's considered racist. Why?

    I mean, wouldn't it be racists when anybody does it? It's excluding other people based on color, origin, religion, or something. So why is it different? I honestly want to understand.

    Oh, and I'm of a mixed background, so don't think I'm asking because I'm white. I'm asking because as a human I don't get racism, and I believe all ethnic groups are racist.

  5. Sorry to take so long to respond, folks! ;-)

    @Jer: I never really thought of feeling sorry for a bigot, other than feeling sorry for the narrow, angry world they've chosen to live in. I like your insight though. Thanks for sharing!

    @sorei: I don't know what I saw (like a movie or documentary or something) or read, but I'm familiar with the struggle modern Germany has with the Nazi legacy. The civil rights movement in the U.S. and the challenges in Germany is really good analogy. At what point do Jews and Blacks move on? No, we should never, ever forget, (nor forgive, in my opinion), but we owe it to ourselves to move on.

    @Sarah: Thanks, darlin'! I'm glad you liked it! :-)

    @Shay: Wow. I've made that same argument for a long, long time. And I didn't really have an answer til I read your comment.

    I've never had a problem with different ethnic groups congregating and celebrating their heritage. My dad's wife is Norwegian and I think she was a member of a Norwegians in America group (that wasn't the name of the group, but you know what I mean). I don't think they specifically said, "Norwegians Only!" But anyone not Norwegian probably wouldn't have much interest in joining anyway.

    What I discovered since I formed my negative opinion of Black organizations, for example, was that they're not officially exclusionary either. White, Hispanic, Asian students can attend "black" colleges if they choose to, but most don't. I wouldn't even say non-blacks are discouraged from attending schools with a predominantly black student body. There are just so many other choices out there that might be a better fit. I'm a graphic designer and there were schools that were better for me to attend than others.

    I think because of the history of blacks being denied so much in America, it was necessary to establish organizations and groups where the blacks could toot their own horn because no one else would. The NAACP is a good example, I think, of an organization that is unashamedly black, but is also necessary to keep the cause of civil rights alive.

    I always equated civil rights with bitching and moaning about what blacks were "owed". No group is owed anything any more (except maybe Native Americans). The past is the past, and it's getting more distant every day. It's time for all of us to stand on our own two feet and stop looking for handouts.

    Unfortunately, prejudice and bigotry still exist, so ethnic groups have to continue to walk that fine line between self-affirmation and exclusionism. (I don't think "exclusionism" is a real word, but I think it sounds cool.)

  6. One other thing: I think the only "white" groups that are wrong are ones based on hate. There are plenty of "Whites Only" signs in our history, but I don't recall seeing any "Blacks Only" ones.

  7. OK, but when a group forms that is based on say an interest in chess and it just happens to be all white, and then someone comes along and notices, why is it OK to insinuate that they're racist because they just don't happen to have any non-whites in the group? I've seen it happen. They're open to having anybody who is interested in chess join, but you have to have a real interest in the game. Not just want to join to make a racial point. I saw some very good people get hurt because they were labeled racists just because everybody in their little club was white and the person wanting to join them was black but wasn't interested in chess. He was just interested stirring things up. He was very clear about not joining because he liked chess and said he didn't like chess.

    Same scenario. A black dance group wouldn't allow a white dancer who had the skills and talent to be part of their group join them. Nobody called them racists, and they clearly said it was because the dancer was white that he couldn't join them.

    What's up with the double standard?

    1. Crap! I just wrote a really nice, long-winded reply and Google ate it.

      I'll re-post later...

    2. Alright, Ms. Shay, let's try this again.

      I think the black guy that tried to join the chess club just to "make a point" was an idiot. (I put make a point in quotes, because he didn't make a point at all.)

      I think the backlash for so much overt and pervasive racism by whites against blacks for such a long period of time and that certain blacks feel justified in their own reverse racism and discrimination. "Hey, you guys did it to us, so now we can do it to you and you can't complain." That's bullsh*t, of course.

      Spike Lee said that a black man can't be racist because past persecution gives him the right to say anything he wants. I'm paraphrasing, but that kinda thinking is what pisses me off. There's no tit-for-tat justification for racism.

      Maintaining a cultural identity within a select group is tricky in this day and age because too many cry racism as soon as certain types of limitations are self-imposed within a group. A black dance troupe may want to remain all-black so they deny membership to a white, or hispanic or Asian dancer, who is otherwise wholly qualified. If an all-Asian dance group made up of Chinese performers denied a black or hispanic or even a Japanese dancer access to the group, would they be racist? I don't that's racist, but there are some who would say yes, it is. It's tricky.

      For the majority of U.S. history, the white majority has been able to do whatever they wanted. They can have as many clubs, colleges, performing arts groups, etc. as they want. Blacks, as an example, were denied that right for so long, so it was necessary to establish groups exclusive to blacks because whites wouldn't have them. I doubt the Boys Choir of Harlem has any black members and it would be weird if a white kid tried to join. BUT -- it would be way cool if one did, and was accepted. Integration.

      Exclusivity based on culture or artistic integrity is different than exclusion based on hate or prejudice. There are a lot more "Whites Only" signs in our history than "Blacks Only" ones. The double-standard of reverse racism is an unfortunate consequence of our history. It sucks, and we've got a long way to go, but it's better than it's ever been.

  8. OK. :)

    When are you and @Christy going to post something new? It's been a long time for both of you.

    1. Okey-dokey. ;-) (Didn't mean to ramble so. I was sort of on a roll...)

      I'm actually working on a new post, funny you should ask. Hopefully I'll have it up before the end of the week.

      Christy's waiting for inspiration for her's...;-)

    2. Inspire her man! LOL! I miss reading regular posts from you two. The blogs have been kinda dead. Then again I haven't been around much either. My BF and I are going to be hitting the road April 13. Traveling where the wind takes us for 2 years, maybe more. Unless we find a place we really like and decide to put down roots there. It's going to be awesome traveling the world together! :)

    3. I'm working on the inspiration thing, promise! She inspires me every day, so I have to return the favor. The blogs have been really dead for the last few months or so. But we're both gonna keep posting even if we don't get a lot of traffic.

      I still can't believe you guys are going on the road, you bohemian you! But I think it's awesome. What an adventure. Have you thought about starting a travel blog to chronicle your journey? I know it might be difficult to maintain it on the road (and you may not want to be bothered with it), but more and more free Wifi hotspots are popping up.

    4. We talked about doing a travel blog but decided this time is just about us being together and experiencing life together. It's a personal journey for the two of us. We want to unplug as much as possible so we're going to send our friends and family real letters and postcards mostly, instead of emails. They'll know where we are all the time. We're only taking phones, but we'll be writing in journals and taking lots of photos. I guess we both are a little bohemian. He inspires me. :)

      "I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you." - Roy Croft

    5. I meant to add that I'm into "love" quotes today. The thought of traveling with my BF for 2 years is getting me all gushy. :)

    6. Awwwww! Gushy is good.

      I totally understand about wanted to keep it 'unplugged' while you're traveling. I wouldn't want the added "responsibility" of keeping up with a blog while I was living so much life. (Hell, I have trouble keeping up at home.)

      As long as you keep in touch with somebody(s), I say cut loose. I just don't want to hear someday that you both vanished and no one knew where you'd been. hehe (that really is a joke; I doubt you'll vanish)

    7. Oops. I meant to mention that I liked the Roy Croft quote. ;-)

      "You know you are in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams." ~ Dr. Seuss

    8. LOL! I hope we don't vanish!

      I still have to remind myself this is really happening sometimes. We've talked about it for so long, and now we're actually doing it! :)

  9. Good questions @Shay! I like your replies @Steven!

    Where is @Christy?