Hello and welcome back for Episode 3 of my 5-part series, Africa To America, which I call “Hatred Of Self” (if you’re new to the party, I strongly suggest you go back to the beginning of my blog series – “Africa To America [Pt. 1]: More Than Just A Slave Journey”). This week I want to share a few thoughts on the troubling concept of self-hatred in the black community. This, as always, is for ALL to hear and I hope that everyone takes something away from this.
Warning: Use of expletives. I’m not pulling any punches and this will be raw, so there will be no apologies for what I have to say.
One of my favorite movies is Spike Lee’s “School Daze” (1988). It gives us a closer look at fraternity/sorority pledging, divided friendship, intra-racism and other issues that are believed to occur at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Set at the fictional Mission College, the film became quite popular by touching on a subject that you don’t normally see in “black” films: Light versus Dark-skinned people of color.
The star of the movie is Laurence Fishburne who plays Vaughn “Dap” Dunlap, the politically-conscious protagonist and student anti-apartheid demonstration leader. He and his friends (“The Fellas”) are constantly locked in battle with their adversaries, the members of Gamma Phi Gamma fraternity, led by Julian “Big Brother Almighty” Eaves (Giancarlo Esposito), who is currently pledging Dap’s cousin, “Half-Pint” (Spike Lee). At the same time, Dap’s girlfriend Rachel (Kyme) and her friends have continuous run-ins with Jane Toussaint (Tisha Campbell) and the G-Phi-G sister affiliates, The Gamma Rays. The Gamma Rays are depicted as light-skinned, blue contact-wearing, weave haired, snobbish girls, known as “Wannabes” (wanna be white) while Rachel and her dark-skinned, “nappy-headed” entourage are referred to as “Jigaboos”.
I especially love this movie because I first saw it as a student at Florida A&M University (an HBCU) where I found direct application in several scenes to things I had witnessed or experienced. I was particularly intrigued by one scene which contained a very memorable in-town confrontation, similar to my own.
In this scene, “Dap” goes to lunch with his close friends at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in town. While dining, they are soon harassed by a few staring locals, led by Samuel L. Jackson. They decide to leave, only to be followed out of the restaurant by the group, who continue to antagonize them. I’ll edit the confrontation quotes to keep to the point of focus:
Warning: expletives ahead. No censoring this time…
Dap: Yeah, brother, what do you want?
Local #2: You ain’t no kin to me.
Local #1 (Samuel L. Jackson): That’s right and we ain’t yo’ brothers… …How come you college motherfuckers think y’all run everythang? …You come to our town, year after year and take over. We was born here, gon’ be here, gon’ die here and can’t find jobs cause o’ YOU… …we may not have yo’ ed-u-ca-tionnn, but we ain’t dirt neither.”
Dap: And ain’t nobody said all o’ dat aiight?
Local #1: You Mission punks ALWAYS talkin’ down to us.
Dap: Look brotha, I’m REAL sorry that you feel that way, ok? I’m really sorry about that.
Local #1: Are you black?
Local #2: Take a look in the mirror, man.
Dap: Look man, you got a legitimate beef, aiight? But it ain’t wit’ US, ok?
Local #1: Arrrrrre… …you… BLACK?
Dap: Hey look man, don’t EVER question the fact whether I’m BLACK! In fact, I was gonna ask YO’ country ‘bama ass why you got dem drip-drip CHEMICALS in yo’ head… …and then come out in public with a SHOWER CAP on ya head.
Local #1: I bet you niggas DO think y’all white. College don’t mean SHIT! Y’all NIGGAS. And you gon’ BE niggas. Forever. JUST like us… …Niggas.
[Pause. Dap steps into Local #1’s face]
Dap: You’re NOT, NIGGAS.
Dap and friends walk away as the locals continue to threaten and taunt them.
End of scene.
The full scene can be seen here.
Inhaling. Exhaling, slowly. Really.
As loud as the other movie-goers were throughout the movie, during this moment, everyone was deathly silent. The irony of this moment was that despite the local citizens’ accusations and insults, out of all the characters in the movie, Dap is depicted as the “blackest” or most politically “woke”.
I felt a painful gnawing in my gut as I recalled my own experience while visiting a young lady in a low-income housing area on the outskirts of Tallahassee. I was wearing my Florida A&M football jersey (from the bookstore, not as an athlete) and sitting on the front steps of an apartment building with her when someone much older pulled up in a car and walked towards the steps with his female companion. He looked at me and said, “Another one of these college niggahs, thinkin’ they the shit, tryin’ to pull hoes with they colors”. Me being young and stupid (and forgetting my surroundings), I stood up and replied, “What? Who the hell you think you talkin’ to?”
Amazingly, my friend and a few neighbors managed to de-escalate the situation before it truly got out of hand. But after the exchange of several disparaging words, the damage had been done. I had been insulted and unfairly attacked for being an aspiring college student (on my own merit) and even more so when I told him that I was from East Chicago and he didn’t know shit about me. That didn’t help because his retort was that I was an “uppity, bourgie (bougeoir) nigger from up north”.
My day was ruined, but my eyes had been opened. Sure, I’d been called a “nigger” before, but all of a sudden, I was accused of thinking I was better than him because I was a college student and from up north. A “city slicker”. Was this what people in town thought of me? I had seen it in the movie, “Breaking Away”, where the locals were called “cutters” and looked down upon by the students at Indiana University, but this was MY reality! I also had a few fellow band members that didn’t like me because I was from up north. I never thought that these things were possible. Yet, there I was, being judged by someone that didn’t know a thing about me, where I grew up and my love and respect for others. Fortunately, these people did not represent the great majority, who lovingly accepted me as a fellow member of the “Marching 100”, a band loved and highly-revered in the community and throughout the nation.
I’m sure you all can see how this, in itself, can be its own 5-part series (“Hatred Of Self”), but I think it best to not expound upon it any further and instead, let you digest the moment and the mood. I will say this though…
We, as people of color, are in danger of extinction. I know that this sounds far-fetched, but our ability to grow as a community is tragically impeded if we think we are a product of our environment. We can’t fall prey to the “Crabs In A Bucket” syndrome, where we try to pull down anyone that attempts to make it out of that lifestyle or mindset. We need to provide the interlocked fingers to hoist others up, then reach up and have them help pull us up so we can all advance. Grow. Succeed. We should always strive to do and be better. And we should expect no less from others.
And know this. We will never reach that point if we hate one-another because they’re lighter or darker than us, from a different region, another fraternity/sorority, belief, social or economic status, sexual orientation or religion. We’re dying out there and it’s nowhere near as much a result of hate crimes as it is Black-On-Black crime and drug use.
To further illustrate this point, allow me to share a scene from the movie, “Tales From The Hood (1995)”. In it, a murderous drug dealer and gang member named “Krazy K” (played by Lamont Bentley) is put in a small detainment cell, neighbor to a white supremacist with only jail bars, to separate them. Krazy K had been placed in this behavioral correction program as a condition for pardon for murder (but had committed over a dozen murders, unbeknownst to the authorities):
Supremacist: Look what we have here, the first soldier in my army, perhaps. (Scoots forward.) So, you’re a real bad-ass spaaaaaaade, hunh?
Krazy K: What’choo say to me muthfucka?!?
Supremacist: You heard me. You gotta be really baaaad to be in a place like this, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. So what’d you do? What’choo in for?
Krazy K: Murder, PUNK! I wouldn’t mind doing the shit again!
Supremacist: (Laughs, mockingly) Me here, I killed a lotta people. Wanna know what kind? Come over here, I’ma show you somethin’… …What’s wrong? Are you afraid of me?
(Krazy K slowly and cautiously slides closer. Both seated and now facing each other, about a two feet apart.)
Supremacist: (Brandishing tattoos including a cross, tombstone, the image of Adolf Hitler, the inscriptions “White People” and “Nigger Killer”, a swastika, etc.) The final fight between black and white has begun. I’ve led my troops on a wave of assaults to wake up my white brother. Allll of the niggers of the earth will be killed, except for the few that help with the fight against their “soul BRU-therrrrs”. Those few will be spared and live their lives as slaves. Do you… …wanna be spared? Come join my army.
Enraged, Krazy K punches the supremacist in the mouth, through the bars. The supremacist chuckles.
Supremacist: Hey nigger. Those guys you killed? What color were they? Huh? (Laughs boisterously.) They were niggers. I know it. You’re cool with me, nigger. I like you. I like you a lot. .
End of scene.
Of course, this is not representative of every black person/group in America, but we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that this is the way of many. We kill our own and apathetically go on with our lives, daring anyone else to threaten our manhood, money, or very existence.
Blaming the Klan, Aryan Brotherhood, skinheads and other racist hate groups? The police and current administration? Yes, there are issues therein, but I’m sorry. Anyone seeking to do “colored folks” harm doesn’t have to put in much effort when we are doing their jobs for them. Child/spouse abuse, neglect, occupational sabotage, slander, rape, harassment, body-shaming, education abandonment, health neglect, gang/social violence, drug use, etc. We never need to step outside of our community for the majority of that, if at all.
From Kunta Kinte to Krazy K.
Lord, what have we become?
Lord, how do we reclaim what we once were?
For me and my family, it begins here, with this understanding:
I am not a jigaboo, jungle bunny, spear-chucker, handkerchief-head, spook, boy, pickaninny, ape, eggplant, crow, spade, blue-gum, porch monkey, teapot, coon or any other derogatory term you create to devalue me. I am not colored, I was born this way – nobody colored me. My head is not covered with velcro. I do not have a tail. I am not a “black bastard”. I am not a threat, unless you seek to harm me, mine or what I’ve built.
And I am not a “fucking nigger” who makes you sick.
I will love all races and cultures and embrace their differences. I will respect and appreciate the beauty of all faces, in their many shapes and sizes. I will fear nothing but God’s wrath. I will put God first and adhere to His word. I will educate myself and work to restore my health, my family and my community. I will help others in need, by not only giving them food, but teaching them to fish. I will take advantage of every opportunity, but not at the expense of the life and safety of others. I will protect my family, at all cost. I will succeed in the face of hatred and jealousy, for there is no better revenge against the intentional misdeeds of others. There is no greater opposition. There is no other logistical choice.
I will not allow my children to twerk for money, but work for money.
They will not dance to songs about “bitches” and “hoes”, but about their beautiful and talented wives and daughters and how they create angelic silhouettes as they rejoice in the setting sun.
And they will know the first African song I ever learned as a child…
(Phonetically) Si si watu, wey-ey usi. Watu wazuri. Pamoya tuta shinga (“We are black, beautiful people. Together we will win”).
I will use all available means to find the country of my first fathers and I will visit this land and meet my cousins.
I will remember the name of my father, and his father and his father.
And I will give my sons a definitive reason to proudly remember mine.
I will hate no man and most of all, I will never… …EVER…
Next up, Part 4: “Family”
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