Monday, January 3, 2011
The Elephant in the Room
I know people who look at the world through a colorless prism; I am not one of them. Good or bad I’m honest enough to admit race looms large in the world and in my life. In this new millennium where hip-hop reigns and multiculturalism is King, people will have you believe race no longer matters: we are a nation plagued by classism not racism. But in America race and class are the Siamese twins of the lower socioeconomic class of whom a large percentage are African American.
Race is the heavy coat I slip on through all four seasons. Sometimes it’s warm and comforting: being able to witness Barack Obama become the first African-American President of the United States and see a Black first family inhabit the White House which was built by African-American slave labor.
Other times, it’s hot and stifling: Why do we need to have one Black mayoral candidate running in Chicago. What if I don’t want to vote for him or her? Is the Reverend Jesse Jackson going to revoke my Black card? I’m tired of someone else telling me what I need to do for me.
Being Black doesn’t make me an expert on Blackness anymore than being a woman makes me understand everything about being female. They’re both critical aspects of who I am and they do shape the way I view the world, but there’s more to me than race and gender. I don’t owe the world an explanation as to who I am and what I believe in, and I’m never going to apologize for the person that I am.
Some days I am obsessed with race, and I used to feel guilty, but since the Presidential election I found that I am not alone. At least I’m honest about mine, and don’t try to couch it in politically correct language.
Most days race matters, even with an African-American sitting in the Oval Office, but sometimes it doesn’t. When I’m engaged in a good book or film which makes me empathetic to a universal tragedy. I’ve tried to ignore the proverbial elephant in the room, but it’s still there. So, the question is, is that a bad thing? Is race in the room the same thing as racism being in the room? My Blackness shouldn’t take away from my humanness should it?