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April 15, 2005

Dancing on the Third Rail: Part Two

Everybody knows how to fight. Nobody knows how to fight racism.

It could be said that in my life online I have been through three phases. In the first phase, mostly as a cat named 'mellow mike', I was primarily interested in black cultural content creation. I had honestly believed that I could transform the realm of hiphop through some kind of online interactive artform. I was also all about the writing, and so I did a lot of lower case, and spoke with flair and flavor. It was all about the culture and the existentials. It was all about the Representation I spoke of.

Then I found out that people were so stuck on race that I couldn't carve out such a space without it being attacked. The internet was a hostile environment for black creativity. I recall as I write this, the hostility a friend of mine received for proposing a black cultural forum from the editor of Boardwatch Magazine, which was very influential at the time. It is exactly parallel to the stink over TCB, the same whack logic. Like any number of new domains, you'll often find self-appointed white male guardians who require it to be 'colorblind' and are thus hostile against women and minorities who claim a spot. As if white wasn't a color and male wasn't a gender. And so faced with this racial problem in the way of my cultural expression, I became 'boohab' and fought the race man's battle.

There was a break and a breather between boohab and 'Cobb', and I'm not sure how much longer Cobb will last, but in this phase I am clearly more focused on the political. As such I am being much more personable rather than abstracted and talking about Domestic Affairs, from an Old School perspective. I don't so often pick the subjects and preach as I comment on the subjects most bloggers are commenting on. That was easy during the beginning of the war and during the campaign season, but not so easy now. At any rate, The Conservative Brotherhood and Cobb are specifically about the black Right, what it is, what it thinks, what it wants, how it operates. Simple.

Or not.

I spoke to my boy Les briefly on the phone last night. He made me laugh in his own inimitable way, knowing just what to say. He said that there will always be some fool whiteboy who will want to make it all about himself. How come I can't form a white political group? How come I can't talk about white culture? How come I can't do what you do? How come I'm always made out to be the bad guy? How come I...? Yes indeed how come you? How did you come into this discussion in the first place? What's your mission? Why are you here?

Remember what Baldwin said. "To be committed is to be in danger." To come up with a handle and dedicate yourself to black culture or anti-racism or black right politics for years at a time online is dangerous work. Somebody might take you wrong. Somebody might take you as a wierdo or as a narrow minded obsessive. You might be accused of stirring up trouble and upsetting apple carts. Good.

Somebody will always demand an explanation, an executive summary that sits well with them. Something they can give a thumbs up or down to, because most people don't want to get into the details. They don't want to hear, they don't want to learn. They want to note briefly, categorize and move on.

But when it comes to rolling that boulder of race, every American's identity is at stake. So there's a lot of excuse making about why such talk is dangerous. And that poor whiteboy is wondering what we're all going to decide for him next. Because if it isn't the damned blacks, it's the damned gays. And if it's not the damned gays, it's the damned feminists, and then the damned Asians and all these damned people keep trying to redefine America under the white man's feet. The white guy bullseye. Sitting duck. Dinosaur. Nobody has any common decency any longer and things don't make sense. No they don't. And the world keeps changing and everything settled is at risk, and everybody fights with the tools they have. Can't we all just get along?

Yes we can. And when it comes to race I've been saying as boohab that yes Mr. Man you have to come up with a new name for yourself. We have. We're not coloreds any more. We're not Negroes. We're halfway done with black and still trying out our African American. Asians ain't Orientals or Celestials any more. You can't be sure if you're looking at a Hispanic or a Latino. Everybody is changing and getting better, why should you be your father's Oldsmobile?

I know there was a deal done when Moses became Morris and lots of people lost the 'stein, shave off a few grams of nose meat and married the blonde. I know there was a deal done when the lace curtains were traded in and the brogue dropped. Everybody pays their price to be called American. But it's a price that keeps getting paid, so long as we are a free country and people still want to come here all of our destinies and identities are bound together. I wish I could be at the border of Mexico this weekend with the Minutemen because I believe that we need to force our politicians to reckon with the hypocrisy in our Immigration Laws. But I know I can't do that without being considered biased against Mexicans. That's the price of the ticket. We all inherit a racial identity, but what do we do with it?

Right now we're in a muddle. Everybody has got different terms and everybody is weary of dealing with race. But we haven't really finished getting it right. A lot of people think it would be better if we just call the whole thing off.

No. We have to face off and deal. I cannot hide behind a XXXL sports jersey, a doo rag, 500 watts of bass and a sneer. You cannot hide either. You have to talk about that smelly town where you grew up. You have to talk about your roots and what was right about them and what was wrong and we have to see the common struggle and invest in the common system. There's no hiding here. With TCB and me, we show our path, our roots, our values, our aims. We can't just front as 'black'. That's not enough. And yet sometimes it just gets reduced to that. That's what got us into this mess in the first place. Oh it's just racial thinking.

I don't to the 'black Republican' thing any longer. I had to work my way through it to understand this side of the aisle. I discovered it was about *do*, not *be*. So when I did different things, my identity changed. And I don't think anyone can read Cobb and say 'typical black conservative'. That's because I don't front. I'm honest about where I'm coming from with myself and with my readers. Sometimes it gets to be strictly about race, and I have decided to deal with it as it occurs, whether or not I want to. Not because I'm defensive about it, but because I know that I have something to contribute which can draw people into this shared issue we have.

Next: The Future.

Posted by mbowen at April 15, 2005 08:20 AM

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Great thoughts, Cobb. Keep going.

You and I have a minor disagreement over whether there's a time and a place for a person to keep out of a conversation because it's not about them. I will tell you that once my daughter asked "how come" there's a black section in the history area of the bookstore we frequent and not a white section. I invited her to look at the entire rest of the history section and draw her own conclusions. Which she did, and she shut up. The thing is, I can say things like that to her and to other white people because being white, I don't put them on the defensive. I guess I would if I started being all self-righteous about how nonracist I am, but I try not to front, as you say, and I can't say that unattractive thoughts don't pass through my mind from time to time.

I do think about race a lot, and as I get older I wonder more and more about the artificial constructions we put up to separate ourselves from each other. And why we do it.

Posted by: Laura at April 15, 2005 04:29 PM