What Makes You Ashamed Of Being Black?
by Kenney Dennard
It’s been a long time since James Brown helped spark black pride in this country with his smash hit, "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud." That was 40-plus years ago, a totally different era in Black History. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X had been recently assassinated, The Black Panther Party was in its beginning stages; afros and dashikis were the latest fashion as blacks discovered their Afrocentric roots; Muhammad Ali was shaking up the world and sparking black pride; and for one moment in American history, being black was the thing to be.
Well, James Brown is dead, Malcolm and Martin have been long gone, the dashikis were pushed to the back of the closets, and if someone sports a natural afro, most likely these days, it’s just to make a fashion statement - nothing more, nothing less.
So what happened to that black pride? Is it still there? Are our youth consciously aware of our history and our struggle, and do they even care? Do we care how we are portrayed to the rest of the world? Take a look around. Look at how many young black men portray themselves with their pants sagging below their butts, and tattoos all over their bodies, including their faces. Meanwhile, their interests mostly include music and sports. Twenty-four year old College Park native Troy Bridges exclaims, "I'm just me. I'm not gonna change for nobody. My tattoos and pants sagging is just how I vibe. I'm not trying to be the next man."
Many question black women's pride as well as they spend tons of money on European and Indian looking hair. Chris Rock stated in his documentary, Good Hair, "Have you ever seen a Chinese or Indian sport and afro wig?" Why is it very few black women think natural hair is pretty enough to wear? Why is it they would rather fry it or cover it up? Why aren't many black men attracted to black women with natural hair?
"Entertainers like Beyonce are the worst thing that could have happened to Black Women," 32 year old NYC make-up artist Kevin Wyatt states. "So many women watch entertainers like she and others and try to copy their styles. To take it even further, she looks like she’s bleaching her skin these days. She looks like Christina Aguilera or someone. Then I was looking at Kelly Rowland on the cover of Vibe and she looks like she's headed in that direction as well. I hope that’s not the next trend for black women, I mean, is White the new Black?"
The news media have long been accused of tainting the images and portrayals of Blacks. "They are the worst!" Jamal Rozier blasts. "The NY newspapers lead the pack. And they are the ones people around the world are reading. So that’s how they see us."
Recently, the New York Times printed some pictures that come to question. The first was with a story of an elderly woman who is fighting to stop an eviction. She apparently took out an equity loan from her house in the 1980's but never received all the money. The loan has been passed from bank to bank but the bank that now has it is trying to evict her. The day they were supposed to come to put her out, her community came together to protest. The picture to the right is the picture that was blown up with the story. What does the picture of the young man with his pants hanging down have to do with anything? Nothing. Why is it that some media outlets still seem to get a kick out of blowing up the one buffoon in the bunch?
Four days later after NY felt tremors from an earthquake the front page of the NY Times ran the top picture of this story. The headline read, "Above All Else, Eastern Quake Rattles Nerves." What does the black man walking out of the courthouse in handcuffs in the middle of whites scrambling out have to do with anything? Nothing.
"So to any of the international visitors of NY that pick up the paper those two days that’s the portrayal of blacks they see," Rozier states. "A hoodlum, although, who knows, that guy could actually be innocent, and a buffoon. The NY Times folk know what they're doing."
Although the press is to blame in a lot of instances, Gloria Carter of East Orange NJ exclaims, "A lot of it is on us. Why do our kids think it's so cool to look stupid and wear their pants with their butts showing?"
Atlanta resident Rodney Moore states, "I'll take it even further. Why is it when we gain control of certain forms of media, all we can do is make fun of ourselves? Whether it's Tyler Perry with the stupid Madea character and the foolish guy from Meet the Browns, or Monique who is always saying something intelligently stupid, or Steve Harvey who is a comedian that seems to think his opinion means something and keeps getting book deals and television show deals. Is this who our kids are supposed to look up to? Look at the actors that win Oscars and what they win them for: "Monsters Ball," where Halle Berry pretty much has rough sex with the white guy on camera, "Precious," where Monique played a straight up idiot, and "Training Day," where Denzel finally became a villain. What being said here?"
Maybe these are reasons we seem to appear ashamed of who we are. Our kids almost only see idiots on TV, idiots in the news and hear idiots on the radio, so it makes them feel being an idiot is not really being an idiot. Are all of our children going to start bleaching their skin to appear white? In 2012, is there more black pride or black shame? What makes you ashamed of being Black?