Roach: “Being Black in the 21st Century”

Former Anchor Rising contributor and GoLocalProv MINDSETTER(tm) Don Roach takes the occasion of Black History Month to speak about what it means to be black in the 21st century:

[T]he main “problem” facing black people in 2011 is a lack of identity. For centuries we were defined by others and defined ourselves by what was done to us. We were enslaved, we were treated like chattel, we had our rights stripped from us, we had few opportunities for advancement, etc.
In 2011, that’s simply no longer true. So who are we? Think about it, if your entire existence has always been defined and controlled by another group, what happens when that group no longer pulls the purse strings?
What happens when you actually win your freedom?
Maybe that’s the wrong question. Perhaps the problem is as a society we want to lump all black people together. We’re not all the same, some of us can’t dance, play basketball, and leaving her nameless some black people I know even like Country music. Perhaps a result of freedom is the loss of collective identity. Is that so bad?

No, it’s not. No one is easily pigeonholed. For while, to one extent or another, we all tend to identify with one or even several groups, our individual identity goes beyond the narrow confines of the assumptions and, yes, stereotypes held by others towards those so “grouped.” That goes for ethnicity, religion and even political or philosophic ideology. But it’s so darned easy to make assumption, isn’t it? To use the “Cliff Notes” of life and make those snap decisions about others so we don’t have to engage or think quite so hard.
We’re all guilty of it and, especially around here, written expression and commentary doesn’t always properly convey the fullness of our character. In my experience, nothing really tops face-to-face with some food and a few beers. It humanizes us in our increasingly disconnected society. That doesn’t mean we’re going to go all Rodney King—I still may think you’ve got some f-ed up views, but at least there’s a chance we’ll like the same beer and think that the Sox have a chance this year (damn straight!).

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joe bernstein
joe bernstein
13 years ago

Don’s columns at GoLocalProv are generally very good reads.

13 years ago

I am always impressed by people who derive their sense of identity from inside themselves, instead of from external factors like race or nationality. It is so easy to fall into the progressive “celebrate your heritage” mentality and just adopt some prepackaged identity for mass consumption, to feel like you belong to some exclusive club or faction. In a lot of ways it’s like believing in horoscope astrology, it can be comforting to think that there is a reason why your life is the way it is larger than yourself. Why didn’t I get that job? Oh, because I’m race X or religion Y. Everyone is tempted to think that way at times, like I’ve lost out on a job to the pretty blonde girl before. But if I got the job, she’d be tempted to say, “Of coure he got the job, it’s a man’s world.” Even if there is a grain of truth, it’s a self-destructive mentality and you can never really verify these types of things so it’ll just drive you crazy in the end. It’s not productive and it creates divisiveness among us, which is exactly what the progressives want. Don is exactly the kind of stand-up person I described, and I’ve always respected that. When people ask me “what I am,” I always say I’m a human being. What possible difference could it make where my family came from hundreds of years ago or what my genetic makeup is? People take pride in these things like they actually had something to do with them, and engage in the worst kind of narrative fallacies based upon them. Don’t even get me started on all the “race comics” on Comedy Central; a latino comic making latino jokes – how original. I wish people would have some more… Read more »

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