I get it. You love Black people and you want what’s best for them. With all the demeaning and one-dimensional images of Blacks on TV, you feel compelled to speak out and attack what you believe is ultimately harming our people.
But let me tell you a little secret.
Calling Black folk ‘slaves’ every time they participate in some activity you don’t condone will not fix the problem.
Two years ago, as I sat in my “Race and Urban Development” class we began discussing whether Obama has done enough for the Black vote. Several of us argued Obama should do more for Black peoples because they are a major part of his constituency just as they were for former President Clinton and any other democratic president. The point being we believe all presidents should do a significant amount for Black Americans because they are a significant portion of this country’s makeup and serving the people is the President’s job, right?
In the midst of all this intellectual discussion one dear brother decided to say he believes Black people are slaves to Obama simply because the President is Black, and we don’t look past that to really discern his politics and what he’s actually doing (because of course no white people voted for Romney or McCain because he was white). My teacher promptly corrected him by noting that a group historically voting for a party that has comparatively had their best interests in mind does not slaves make.
This was not the first time I heard this argument and it genuinely pissed me off because we weren’t shouting ‘SLAVE’ during Clinton’s two elections where he was heralded as the ‘First Black President’ in many circles. Why is it every time Black folks try to enjoy something, frivolous or otherwise, people want to start hollering slave. What they really mean is mindless, agency-less imbecile.
I swear to God if I see one more contemporary painting or image of a Black man or woman painting their metaphorical chains of consumerism gold, I am going to scream. Last month a picture was floating around twitter of a black man hanging from a noose made of Jordans’ shoe laces. Y’all have got to stop giving Hotep Nation access to Adobe Illustrator.
This assumption that Black people who use their purchasing power to cop the new J’s or grab the latest iPhone cannot also be Black people who pay their rent, work a 9 to 5 and receive a degree is deeply flawed. Even if folks ARE buying the new Jordans instead of paying their rent is that not their choice? Are they not adults who can spend their dollars however they so choose?
Do y’all even know what a slave was? Black slaves were not imbeciles. Some taught themselves to read, some lead full on rebellions and many had a solid awareness that their condition sucked. Contrary to what history books and early 20th century movies will show you, most slaves were not running around singing and tap dancing about the joys of slavery. Many were actively resisting or seeking freedom. Also, many slaves were slaves because they had no reasonable choice to be anything else. Yeah some escaped but others knew the risk and decided against it.
So no, a sister standing in line in order to buy her daughter new J’s for Christmas is not the same as a person who was forced to do backbreaking, inhumane labor under threat of death. Are y’all screaming ‘slave’ and ‘mindless robot’ when y’all see whites on whites on whites camping out for the new iPhone or for early entry to Best Buy on Thanksgiving night?
Invoking slave rhetoric or referring to Black people as mindless beings without agency or intellectual capacity just because they watch rap videos, or dress like Lil Wayne or cop the new J’s is not helpful nor is accurate. It’s an insult to your people and it’s reaffirming the trope that Blacks are not free-thinking people or we are somehow less intelligent or capable than our white counterparts. Is that what you meant? If it is, you don’t sound any different than the racists who say that stuff about us on a regular basis.
Y’all can keep the “gold chains are like iron chains” and “when will Black men stop listening to that rowdy hip hop” over there. I’m going to be over here uplifting my people.