Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is This Wrong Of Me?

Add one more thing to my list of the top recent events that demonstrate white racism is alive and well: the Jena Six situation.

But, for a change, I don't want to write about how blacks are the victims of whites. I want to write about how blacks often victimize others, particularly other blacks.

After I left Chicago for the summer, I came back to my home town. I didn't want to for several reasons, initially starting with the fact that I was enjoying Chicago so much, closely followed by the fact that where I grew up is one of the most boring places on the face of the earth. I grew up in a suburb that even some people not from the state knew as (relatively) wealthy whenever I told people where I was from (Southern wealth, especially in non-ATL-like places, means nothing in comparison to the rest of the country. They are cheap as hell, and you can work a "regular" job and afford one of these "wealthy" neighborhoods, which is essentially what my parents had done). Not long after I got here, I remembered another reason why I hate coming back here now and can't wait for the day when I won't ever have to come back--crime.

I don't think anybody is bragging about or impressed about being from my area anymore--not the suburb or any other suburb around here, and definitely not the city. It's to the point where nowhere is "safe" here, not that anywhere ever truly was when you're realistic about it. Unfortunately, being realistic tends not to be many of our fortes, not when it comes to where to live. We don't understand that crime can happen anywhere. Still, I wouldn't mind having just ONE neighborhood or suburb where I grew up that provided the illusion of safety. Without question, no such place exists any longer around here. This is one place where moving to the suburbs undoubtedly makes no difference if you're attempting to run from crime.

Even when I didn't live in the suburbs and lived in the city, I never once had the experience of sitting in my house in the daytime worried about someone breaking in any minute, or trying to go somewhere boring like Wal-Mart and wishing my mother would hurry the hell up in walking from the car to the building before something happens. But for the past few years, I have felt safer everywhere else I've been than in my own hometown, even in cities I was visiting for the first time like when I went to Boston. Hell, even on the Southside of Chicago and in Detroit, I felt better than I do when I'm home. I probably hear police sirens every day when I'm here. And unlike other places I've lived, almost every day the top news story is a murder, rape, robbery or break-in. If not that, then it's a carjacking or something relating to residents getting screwed over in some way by people who are supposed to help us, whether by a politician, police officer or a company.

I know this is something people don't like to admit because it seems racist, but sometimes it's just true: Where I'm from, the overwhelming majority of people who do these things around here, who have essentially destroyed the city and its surrounding suburbs, who have terrorized everyone around here so much that it's not just white people running or wanting to run, who are in office and don't have the slightest clue what they're doing, and so on...are black males. You know it's true. Oftentimes, where there's a high volume of crime, black males aren't far away.

I don't think it's wrong to admit this, and I do think we need to face this as a nation. I think it's wrong to say it and just leave it at that, or to say it in an accusatory, superiority or reverse-racism way. As a black female, it's not as if I haven't thought about and don't have some understanding of why black males seem to be more violent than everyone else. And as a black female, I know it's not all black men, which is a point I will discuss more in a bit. I think I get why black males commit so many crimes. It just pisses me off because 1) as someone who is black, I know I have a greater chance of being victimized by a black male than a white, Asian or Latino person does, and 2) black women experience many of the same issues and existence as black men do--and then some--and, yet, we find better ways to handle our rage than black men do--I wish black men would do the same.

I know the issue is complicated. It's not just simply a matter of "black men are violent" or "black men just commit more crimes." I know it's not just about discrimination. It's also about how black parents tend to have these double standards that still manage to work out in the black female's favor and to the black male's detriment, even though he is treated like the more valued child, the one who can stay out later, the one who can have sex, the one who just has to get a high school diploma and so on. In the meantime, black women are learning morals and values, and developing a good work ethic. Naturally, not every black female, but more black females than black males.

It's also that black men are still men, and the black community encourages chauvinistic ideals in many ways. To me, black men are spoiled brats, in a way, just like white men are. Many black men seem to think that, because they are men and because white men get handed some things in life, black men should, too. When some black men realize this is not how society works for them, they lose it. Black men suffer from a sense of entitlement almost as much as white men do. That's a lot of why, I think, black men disparage, devalue, degrade, physically harm, and so on, black women. Black men can't for the life of them understand how black women are doing better than they are in society. Couldn't be anything but the white man. It's a conspiracy theory. Uh, no. I mean, look around--white men don't have to do squat to hurt blacks anymore. Black men have got that one down pat. The funny thing about that is I know a black male who had a note left by the KKK on his car saying essentially the same thing.

I know that systemic racism exists. I know that white people do do things to try to hurt blacks, particularly black men. But I don't think there's a scheme out there that's aimed at bringing black men down, other than, perhaps, police brutality. Honestly, there's simply no need for it for two main reasons: black men take care of bringing black men down themselves, and black people don't fight discrimination anymore; we just let it happen now. So, like I wrote in my last post, if a black is being used as an example while plenty of whites get away with similar crimes, or if a black person is falsely accused and convicted...we might call into radio stations or get on message boards and blogs and whine, but we're not going to do like blacks did in the 60s. We take a lot of sh!t now, and, no matter how much white people complain that we complain too much, they know that, which is why they feel gutsy once again to try and pull off stuff like the Jena Six situation, the slow response to Hurricane Katrina, and allowing people like Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern to remain on the air and make racist comments.

Think about this one--there is not another culture, at least in the US and probably not in all of western culture, in which the women are doing better than the men except black American culture. Why would that make any sense? Although race is the most important thing in the US, sex and gender still matter a lot, too. If black men really wanted to be ahead of black women, they could be because they are still men and that still counts. But it's that entitlement thing again. I can't tell you how many black men barely have any sort of education and then exclaim that they won't do a certain job because it doesn't pay enough, choosing instead not to work at all...or they think a black woman is supposed to give up school or make other sacrifices so that they can have their way or get ahead. If she doesn't, then that's another thing that makes her an undesirable bitch who "doesn't support black men."

But many black women simply get over the hand they're dealt in life and push ahead. We don't just complain, and we don't expect handouts because we have no reason to expect any because we have no advantageous identity whatsoever, unlike black men. We know that as black people America owes us, but we know we're not going to just get it without hard work and doing some things we don't particularly care to do. That doesn't make us go out and victimize fellow black people--because victimizing a white person, the object of black anger, would land a black person on deathrow, even for the dumbest thing, whereas no one cares about blacks being victimized--that makes us go out and go to college. We're not hanging out at the public library or Walgreens (yes, black males use these places as hangouts where I'm from nowadays) with our pants hanging down below our butts, harassing men the way black men tend to harass women, or just walking around the neighborhood with absolutely nothing to do when we should be working a job or studying.

I'm not saying all this to insult black men or point out how much better black women are. I'm doing this because I'm pissed, and I'm tired of feeling like I'm going to be victimized any second now. I believe that I should be able to come home--be it my hometown or my house--and feel pretty safe. And while I understand that the craziest crimes are committed by white men, I still resent the hell out of black men for the things that only some black men do. I hate going out around town and seeing several groups of them walking around. I'm sitting there fully understanding what non-blacks feel and think when they see black men, because I'm feeling it and thinking it, too. I'm immediately looking to my right to check that the car door is locked. I'm carrying my money in my pockets rather than in a purse just so that it will seem like I don't have any money with me. It's getting to the point where the only time I don't think negatively when I see black males is if I'm at school on campus. I am fine with a neighborhood that has some blacks, but I don't like that I have come back to where I grew up and almost everyone I see is now a black male. If I saw black females walking around here looking stereotypical, I wouldn't like it but I'd still feel safe. But the undeniable increase in crime is also undeniably correlated with black males now being everywhere here, I'm sorry to say.

I've had real conversations with a few people about this phenomenon, i.e. feeling threatened by almost all black men. You'll find that a lot of black people understand where non-blacks are coming from, even though they kind of feel like sh!t because they kind of agree with them and because they associate those thoughts and feelings with racism. That's why I'm asking if I'm wrong.

Well, I'll leave you with two noteworthy opinions, one from a black female and one from a white female, about feeling threatened by black males:

My mother said not too long ago that she hasn't really spent much time around a lot of black when she sees them, she doesn't think positively about them. And at that point, I knew what was coming next: She said that if she thinks like that, imagine how white people think. And it's true, because white people don't typically spend much time around black males, either. But then I thought about it a few days ago. And I realized that I've been in schools with black boys...and I've met and seen more black males who have given me reasons to lack positive thoughts about black males than ones who have given me reasons not to. In grades k-12, they were always the ones disrupting class and giving the teacher a hard time; always. And the only reason why I know they were the problem in high school is from the few standard classes I my honors and AP classes, black teenaged males were almost completely absent. In undergraduate school, there was a similar ridiculously small amount of black males, and law school is the same way. Although these guys acted/act decent in class, I don't spend enough time around them outside of class to know how they act. I do know that they aren't intimidating black males--not in a dangerous way, anyway.

My white friend said something similar. She said two things I absolutely agree with--the way a black male is dressed matters a lot, and in classes black women seem more together while black males goof off more. With her, I think the opinion about black males disrupting class by being loud, acting silly, etc, actually came almost entirely from college. My college experience brought less classes with black males than probably either high school or law school have, plus I attended an Ivy-Like school...coulda made a difference. As far as the clothing--this is a big part of why the black guys in college and law school have not inspired similar responses from me as black males in my hometown do. Not only that, but hair, grooming, speech, manners, body movement, body art and so on all are indicators...which, to me, is the difference between being racist towards black males and merely being overprotective of yourself. If you see a black male, period, and you're freaked, without having tried to figure out whether this is a black male to realistically've got issues.

Which reminds me of another point my white friend had, and that's that sometimes she sees white guys who are freaky because of their appearance. This is definitely true, as well. And, to go back to location, I've noticed that I mainly hate to see and feel threatened by black males in my hometown only. I was fine in black areas of Chicago, and I was fine in Detroit. It's being in my hometown that is making me stereotype all black men. The funny thing about where I'm from is people refuse to believe it's more dangerous than either of those places, which our city has been found to be one of the most dangerous in the country. But I don't know why people look down on the Southside of Chicago so much. I heard less about crime there than I do in my hometown, and I think that's correlated with my level of fear depending on where I am. My mother has no idea why I'm terrified of our area, and she insists that places like Chicago and NYC have got to have more crime. Numbers-wise, sure, since they are bigger cities with more people; percentage-wise, no. Plus, crime depends a lot more on the area, at least with Chicago, whereas--as I said before--there's just nowhere to go to get away from it in my hometown.

But back to what my friend said about certain kinds of whites being threatening...I feel threatened by white people all the time, regardless of what kind they look like they are. When I was in Boston, I was in a white area, and that made me uncomfortable. Today, I ate at a restaurant that was nothing but white, and I kinda wanted to leave. In Chicago, I encountered odd white males all the time and worried about that because I know white men, if crazy, are crazier than any black man. I've seen white guys who have looked like serial killers or child molestors or racist rednecks. With white people, though, there's almost always the sense that I could end up hanging from a tree, especially in the South but don't count anywhere else out, and especially if it's an environment in which everyone is that restaurant.

Essentially, if someone is a black person like me--super-suspicious of white people, scared of black men--you never get a chance to really relax. You never feel safe. Another luxury of life for many whites...