Obama Negro’s Dialect: White Projections of Blackness

The comments made by  Harry Reid, attributed to Bill Clinton in the book Game Change (http://conversations.blackvoices.com/entertainment/99435682aaea4564b24369ed6fc90973/b-clinton-obama-getting-us-coffee/c5d016d0f5334e42ba769530e83186e8) and ex-governor Rod Blagojevich insane rant about his own “blackness” (http://cbs2chicago.com/governor/rod.blagojevich.interview.2.1417753.html) proves how racially ignorant and arrogant white Americans can be. These men are so-called progressive democrats presumably free from the taint of racism. I am of the opinion that most white people do not think about race in any deep or introspective manner. When the subject is brought up, the comments come from a very narrow, shallow pool of knowledge. If you do not interact with blacks in any way, how can you make any reasonable comments about 12% to 17% of the  American population. Harry Reid’s “Negro comment” is known by every black person in America. Of course, whites would be more comfortable with a light skinned black man who “acts white.” That is certainly no news to anyone of African decent. Most whites have no idea of the how Harry Reid’s attitude has played out African American history or what pain African Americans have inflicted on each other because of skin color.

Barack Obama is a remarkable human being, but many whites see him as an anomaly. The view that blacks are defined by poverty, dysfunction, immorality and criminality is still prevalent is still prevalent in America despite the fact that there are millions of educated, hard working, law abiding African Americans in this country.  Of course African America has problems, but the fact of America’s racist past and it’s ongoing effects are repeatedly minimized or dismissed and the idea that African Americans are inherently defective still holds sway. Whites who think that blacks who do not conform to these expectation are acting “white” still has plenty of currency in this country. This poison has been internalized by too many African American children in the last few decades. Why does  “acting black” mean that you have to be poor, uneducated, no ability to speak standard English, only fit paying servile job, in other words have  no ability to properly exercise the opportunities given to blacks in America. How arrogant is it to associate darker skin with so many negatives and absolve those of  seen as white of all wrongdoing in making it that way?

People of African decent in America are a diverse group of people, survivors of slavery and colonialism with distinct geographic, generational and ethnic differences. We have a rich linguistic culture that includes the practice of code switching. African Americans go from various black dialects to Standard English every single day. I grew up in England and Canada and my dialect changes when I am at work, when I am with my friends and I am with my Jamaican family. No matter when Midwest whites where I currently are now reside are often surprised that I am black. I grew up in New York City one of the few places where it is harder to judge a black book by it’s cover and the reaction of whites who grew up psychologically or physically segregated infuriates me. Over 600 hundred years ago a small group of ignorant sailor’s observations of the “primitive, inferior, savage Africans” formed the basis of European ideology about Africans, isn’t it time that Americans stop associating these ideas with other Americans?

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