� Tony Pierce, Asian Inscrutability & Blogging While Black | Main | Voice Recognition: Berger & Liaw �

January 27, 2005

My People, My Hair

I have gotten in the habit of not second-guessing black people, even though it can be very rewarding to do so. Cruising Negrophile I found the following on 'silence'.

I felt that I should say something. As for what, I wasn't sure. But silence is complicity, right? My silence says that these ridiculous notions that you folks are carrying around are OK. When they're not. It's a weird feeling. You're sitting among your people, and things like this come up, and it feels like you have to choose. How far out in the margin am I going to be today? You have to decide if this is even the right place and time to speak up (should you always speak up, being the fundamental question), and if it is, what you will say.

I admit, I feel a little perverse sense of...what? laughter? Internal laughter because here I am, sitting there, listening to them talk like they have the final-say on what is normal and appropriate. I am sitting right here in the middle of them, about as heterosexual as an extended Madonna house remix. And I laugh to myself, thinking, "Man, y'all mofos don't know anything."

But still I am torn. Because, if there is no speaking up, how else are people - Black people - going to get over this shit about "conversion," these overdramatized moments of "I just can't listen to this!" - to which I wanted to ask, "Why? Why can't you listen to it? What is so difficult about listening to something that frankly, has nothing to do with you?"

The irony of this entire passage is that embedded in the author's internal conflict is that the desire to convert the blackfolks around her springs from the same impulse she decries. Namely, 'wouldn't it be great if more black people just...' You fill in your blank, I'll fill in mine. For now I guess my blank reads 'leave well enough alone' or 'mind their own damned business'.

Yet I understand perfectly well how difficult it can be to come home. I've been in enough barbershops to know. Now that I've got some grey in my beard, I have decided that I have earned the privilege of telling people that they are fools. And I know that some of them think the same of me, but I like to keep it at that one to one level. It's always annoying to me when black people get the smackdown when it's just the subset that you know, in your barbershop - not that you even know all of them.

My old buddy David Fleming is in the Nova video of James McLurkin that I showed my kids today. (He's the brother on the left with the dreads in the opening minute). And in light of this hair thing it became obvious to me about the difference between black 'being' and black 'thinking'. I believe many blackfolks 'think black' on a much higher level than they 'act black'. It is the conscious work of reorienting one's hair, clothing and mannerisms, that blackfolks use to attempt to unify those two levels. Most of the time, we're surrounded by people who don't get it. (I hereby re-introduce the term 'nons', not necessarily meaning non-black, but often so). In the company of nons, we can only 'act black' at a certain level, inferior to the place where our highminded black thought is taking place. That's why every once in a while we have to get back to where our peoples is at, and recharge our batteries. But all black peoples aint our peoples. This, we sometimes forget.

A man who will spend the time and effort it takes to grow dreads is telling you that he 'thinks black' at a very high level, and so he expects you to engage him at that level, or not at all. I look at that video and I know those are my peoples. In fact, the similarities between McLurkin and my best friend is uncanny. In fact, I think the same people did their kitchens. It didn't surprise me at all to see Fleming in that video. Isbell and I do the baldhead black man thang, an equally demanding hair effort at unifying mind and body.

But as sister outsider insightfully notes, everybody who does their hair the same way isn't necessarily our peoples. My recommendation, be glad. It just gives you more space to be an individual. The corollary to this is that you need to mob up with people who have got your back instead of trying to convert people who obviously do not. Get over it. You can't second-guess blackfolks.

Posted by mbowen at January 27, 2005 02:58 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry: