A Curious Notion: An Avoidable Disservice

An essay By M.M.Carswell  

It is both difficult and disheartening to hear of the troubles afflicting African American pundit’s tax problems on MSNBC. This is magnified in these troubling times we are in here in America 2015, a time of widespread racial ambiguity and unrest. On the one hand I want to applaud the network for hiring and providing an uplifting platform for seemingly intelligent persons of color. Also it is good to see uplift  for someone other than a ballplayer, or artist / entertainer, or a “reality show” featuring some otherwise dysfunctional African American portraying yet another niggardly acting buffoon. Not that I am condemning ballplayers,  all blacks on reality television or television in general but, I do have a real problem with the apparent choices that these people are making in the public eye. I have a deeper problem with why it matters to me at all? American blacks are not monolithic! Aren’t people just people? Do not all people make mistakes? Why the do the black episodes always matter just a little bit more? Why is there just a little bit of sting involved?  

 Just to unpack a few basic concepts here first before the lynch mob forms. I choose the word ambiguity because of the juxtaposition of supposed progress in today’s western society contrasted with an ancient cultural burden borne by the Negro race here in America, as well as its long term effects going forward. Let us take into consideration, the election in the United States of the first outwardly black president.  There was an unexpected birth of both unbridled hopefulness in certain quarters and a belief within others of reaching a supposed “post racial society”. Apart from the dubious aspects of white guilt that some refer to, this has had a very significant impact in reality and optically. The reality is that the curious notion of a post racial society fueled the great legal minds of the SCOTUS to basically dismember the vaunted voting rights act, which was a much needed law that we all know black folks literally died for. This is especially galling with Chief Justice Roberts stating that, “there was no longer any need”.  After which a plethora of states almost immediately went on to pass crippling voter registration laws targeted in part at the minority community, proving just why the voting rights act is such a necessity to begin with but, let’s put a pin in that one for now.

Optically there remains the confusing conundrum of a black president in a land with so many high profile and highly questionable police shootings featured by the news media. Or such an inequality in outcome in schools of predominately “urban”(read black) children. What about  the still high unemployment rates within communities of color nationwide, or how about,  the vast disparity of incomes of those that do have employment, or the difference in incarceration rates for petty offences and more, most of which is not highlighted on television regularly enough to create a real demand in people’s minds for significant answers. Now for sure, any cross racial shooting by the police raises the ire within the minority community in general but, here lately it seems particularly significant to the nation as a whole, especially in the light that, in most of these cases the victims were unarmed and the offences were petty or non-existent; it remains to be seen if there will be pertinent change as a result.                                                              Yes urban schools are having problems, not news. The black community is targeted for petty offences in general, “yeah!, yeah! And…”  There is real income disparity, so what? Well, hold that thought, I’ll get back to that later.   

Next I want to address my use of the term “seemingly intelligent”.  I realize that this phrase as I have employed it reeks of condescension. “Well let’s see!” First off a college professor, a couple of nationally well-known journalist, a civil rights activist, these all require more than the appearance of real intelligence, right? I would argue that these people are not children. Their education and experience is self-evident and, these folks in particular certainly should know better, right?

 As we have seen lately with the “dumbing down” of the masses and an apparent assault on knowledge and intellect by some on the extreme political right in general. Wouldn’t there also be a traditional need to be aware of profile in the “news business”, specifically at NBC in light of the Brian Williams mess and especially for persons of color with all the apparatus of marginalization still in effect? Now, in some quarters this is more proof that “Black America” is still not ready for prime time. Certainly Fox News wasted little to no time in having its African American pundit show host issue a scathing condemnation under the subtle guise of pointing out the “utter hypocrisy” of its bitter rivals. The optics of which support yet another stereotype that is much in need of address but, perhaps it’s just another windmill to tilt or more or less just  another story for another day.

 I also did in fact use the antebellum term “niggardly” specifically because in the last fifty years or so there seems to me to be a consistent prevalence of showcasing ridiculous behavior of persons from the African American community, especially on TV or, is it just more noticeable to me now? “Niggardly being a term expressing the abject stupidity of one’s actions particularly in public.  Back more than four decades ago when I was coming up the consideration of being the “first black” this or that still had quite a bit of gravity within the black community and one had a constant responsibility not to “embarrass the race”. This is with the understanding that our forbearers were confronted on many sides and had to struggle daily to have their very human dignity recognized, especially with phrases like, “colored people”, “your kind”, “you people” and various other diminishments and epithets being bandied about as commonplace amongst whites. It was paramount in that era that the recognition of one’s profile was permanently affixed to achievement of any kind, in order to combat rampant marginalization of the Negro race. What happened to that? While on the one hand no Caucasian is ever singled out as a disgrace to the race publically, why does this stigma still loom so large over both black and brown people here in America? Was that a good thing at the time? Why do we have to still be twice as good to be considered at all? With my twenties long behind me I can’t help but wonder how generation “Z” views this, as well as their prospects in a confusing and toxic environment? On the other hand let’s not forget other Negro immigrants come here to this country and seem to stay under the radar and do well. This is often pointed out as additional reason to dismantle the “social safety net” by some but, in addition to collapsing unrelated issues, it is reasonable to ask what the differences may be.

I will save for another time a deep dive into the cultural degradation, abuse and, mistreatment of the American Negro and how that is different from immigration for economic advantage that others before and since the civil war have experienced. I am no sociologist but, I will say that there are very distinct differences and that they have had and continue to have a profound effect on current behavior and expectations within American society.

 All of this does not yet address my current disappointment. “Death and taxes” or so the saying goes are inevitable to most regular folks.  So why is it so common for a significant number of very high profile people of color to fall short of every citizen’s obvious obligation? If one is not caught up in one’s own hype, isn’t it obvious that there is a need for an accountant or some type of money management professional for one whose financial status is suddenly changed for the better. Moreover with access to a completely different stratum of persons that are also “well to do” isn’t there someone successful that one could ask “off the record” for a referral of sorts, especially if the interview is a commonplace task with your job?

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