Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Notes from a Post Race Society NPR( National Privilege Radio) again getting it wrong Post Race Coming of Age Story

When I heard the NPR piece "Playing the Race Card" by Michele Norris, I knew, it was gonna be bad.  The term itself is used to silence progressive Black folk , like the term "politically correct" is used to silence real feminist, when speaking truth to power.  

Michele Norris

NPR's"Playing the Race Card" is described as a series inviting listeners to send in "six word stories" about race, "....people take a complicated and controversial subject and boil it down to six words, what it means for them..

In my mind, red lights flashed, loud alarms sounded, and a mechanical voice blared, "Warning! Warning! Beware!  Banal Yet Dangerously Specious National Conversation To Erode And Erase The History and Consequences of American White Supremacy, Directly A Head, Warning! Warning! Beware 

Inviting America to "tweet" about race is highly problematic, trivializing an already increasingly marginalized emergency, that's stranded atop a frayed and thinning high wire rocked to and from by angry and uncaring winds of both; white conservatives and (subconsciously and now consciously, since the election of Barack Obama) white Liberals,  who both want to be done with the whole issue of  
race, once and for all, to move forward with clear consciouses.

I very much doubt that NPR would solicit tweets about the Jewish Holocaust, nor would NPR described it as simply "complicated and controversial", like a bad basketball call, especially if Jews were still deeply suffering and traumatized from it.  But such is the direction of Post Race America and that's what this series is about.

The story begins in North Carolina with George Washington III.  When I heard the name, I assumed he was an "ancient", as it was once common for enslaved Black folk to be named after philosophers and presidents by their captors, as jokes. Therefore, I was shocked when George Washington III  spoke, he was much younger than I thought . His name wasn't discussed for context.  It also wasn't discussed for context that both of his marriages were to white women.  His current marriage, added their mixed children to his wife's white children from her previous marriage, along with Washington's previous mixed children from his first marriage, including18 year old Jordan.

The story's marrow is that George Washington III took Jordan to an optometrist and based upon his own  experience as a Black man in America, checked the African-American box for a question asking his son's ethnic identify.  

Jordan said nothing, until the car ride home, where he explained to his father, that sometimes he doesn't check the African-American box. At this point the story becomes a Post Race Coming of Age Celebration as George Washington III,  both humbled and proud, admits his error to his son. George Washington goes on to state, he's not sure if he's up for the task of campaigning to change such questions  to include "mixed race" or to allow people to check multiple boxes. But he did later go back by himself to the optometrist and requested his son's paper work, so he could recheck "mixed race". I'm assuming he brought celebratory white-out for the mission.

This story just doesn't ad up.  A northernly State like Illinois hasn't advanced to mixed race categories, yet a southern state like North Carolina, which still has laws on it's books where oral sex is a crime against nature, supposedly does? 

I also doubt NPR, would run a story, where the son of a Jewish man, married to a Christian, tells his father that he doesn't want to be considered Jewish, and then describe the story as " wonderful"  as Michele Norris does.

George Washington III and Jordan

Michele Norris completely white washes the crisis of Black identity in America, rejecting Chole Ardelia Wofford aka Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, DuBois, Frantz Fanon, and every other intellectual who struggled to examine what it means to be Black in a country of white supremacy that since it's inception has equated Blackness with every thing negative and evil.  Indeed in Wofford's brilliant novel the Bluest Eye, the sad and doomed preteen  Pecola Breedlove, is raped and ultimately driven insane  for "blue eyes"  In Michele Norris's post race world, to escape Blackness all one has to do is check a box.

The fact that, Jordan is too dark to "pass", an infamous term used up until the 1960's, when very light skinned Blacks sometimes turned their backs on their Black identities to "become" white, combined with George Washington III's marriages and his remarks in this piece, makes me think this story is far more complex than about Jordan, not wanting to choose between his parents.  I'm not against interracial marriage, but in America, whiteness is status, consciously and subconsciously and this story is not just about sweeping it under the rug,  but white washing history in order to escape it.

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