Posts Tagged ‘racism’

“The NAACP of yesteryear: lynchings, Jim Crow, Brown vs. Board of Education, Plessy v. Ferguson. The NAACP of today: Smoking bans, amusement parks, Hallmark cards, pot, and nominating Real Housewives of Atlanta for an Image Award. How the mighty has fallen.”

“Nigga” From The Lips Of A White Man Is Pure Gold

Repeating Insignificance

But Will They Have A Section For Weed Smokers?

Watch Me Pull This Rabbit Out Of My Hat

Didn’t Jimmy The Greek Say Something Like This?

Do We Need A 9/11 To Help Obama?

Al Qaeda Immunity To The Race Bomb

Remember, The Banks Are Too Big To Fail

That’s A New One

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I am referring to Michael Eric Dyson’s piece on CNN.com where he talks about the life choices made between he and his brother (who is currently serving life in prison).

Two Brothers, Two Paths: Shades of Race

Dyson makes the following comment–

Still, I’m not seduced by the notion that I made superior choices because I was a better person. I believe that Everett is an extremely smart young man who got caught in a world of trouble – yes, by his own hand, with an assist from a society that often viewed young black males as disposable and unimportant – but who could, if given the opportunity, direct his considerable gifts to making our world more enlightened about the plight of poor, struggling black males. That’s my hope as I work diligently to free him from prison so that he can come back to society with a renewed will to offer his talent in service of our people and nation.

Herein lies the main problem I have with his piece. While he acknowledges that his brother (who mind you grew up in the same house with the same parents) made some bad life choices, he (Michael) attempts to negate these poor choices by blaming society for somewhat pushing him in that direction because he is Black.

Why then did that same society fail at pushing him in that same bad direction?

While I can certainly understand the love that he has for his brother, making excuses for him because of his darker skin is disingenuous and demeaning at best. He talks about this in this article. Here is what he said:

Besides the choices we made, Everett and I are also examples of an ugly trait that persists in black communities: the ruin of color consciousness. I am a light-skinned brother; Everett is a deep chocolate black man.

I am not suggesting that the mere difference in shade has led to his brutal circumstances and my rise. I am arguing, however, that the persistence of colorism — a sometimes subtle hierarchy of social standing historically dictated in part by darkness or lightness of one’s skin, measuring the proximity to, or distance from, the vaunted white ideal — affected how he was viewed as a developing youth, impacting the view of what gifts he might possess while shaping the presence or absence of social opportunities open to him.

(my quick side note: There are plenty of light-skinned drug-addicts, drug dealers, prostitutes, rapists, thugs, gang bangers, creeps out there as well. How do they fit in this rationale?)

Dyson, like so many other people who have avoided a life of crime did not make “superior choices” because he was a better person. He made superior choices because he chose to do so. Mind you, superior choices don’t always guarantee fame, fortune and glory. But they can certainly increase your odds in reaching those goals. For the majority of Black folks in this country who do not live in the ghetto, we are not there because of some random fate. We are where we are today because we chose to increase our odds at success in life. What I will never understand is why many middle class Black folks I have known throughout my life feel the need to lay the complete fate of less fortunate Black folks at the feet of perceived White racism. Mind you, these things are said all while they themselves are living examples of just how far a Black person can go in this society despite the occasional encounter with White racist attitudes. If we can make it, so can they. So stop selling them short.

I wanted to know more about Dyson’s brother Everett, so I came across this letter he wrote to his brother. I’m just going to cite a few excerpts.

In this excerpt, he is talking to his brother and talking about the situation that landed him in prison.

A young black man with whom you were formerly acquainted was tied up in a chair on the second floor of a sparsely furnished house. He had tape tightly wrapped around his eyes. He was beaten on the head. He was shot twice in the chest at extremely close range, producing “contact wounds.”

After breaking free of his constraints, he stumbled down the flight of stairs inside the house where he was shot. Once he made it down the stairs outside the house, he collapsed on the front lawn of the house next door. As he gasped for breath while bleeding profusely, he was asked,
first by neighbors, then by relatives who had arrived on the scene, and later by a policeman, “Who did this to you?” Something sounding close enough to your name was uttered. The badly wounded man was pronounced dead a short time later after being rushed to an area hospital.

Notice what I highlighted in the next excerpt.

I was stunned. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been. Detroiters were fed up with crime, including the ones who peopled the black jury that convicted you. How many times had this apparent scenario been repeated for them: black men killing other black men, then seeking pardon from blacks sitting on a jury in a mostly black city?

So is this an acknowledgment that an all Black jury does not necessarily equate to fair justice? Or is it a subtle attempt to paint Blacks who sit in jury boxes as incapable of passing fair judgment due to social ills allegedly beyond their control?

There are plenty of other areas in his commentary that I could address like the fact that while he mentions that there are more Black men in prison than in college, this claim has already been proven false. Or his failure to mention that it was groups like the Congressional Black Caucus that pushed heavily for the 3-strikes law (the law responsible for placing many of our young men and women in prison).

As I mentioned earlier, while exercising personal responsibility certainly isn’t a sure fire way to launch someone out of an unfortunate life situation, it certainly has proven to be a major catalyst behind the upward mobility of many Blacks in this country. Dyson acknowledges that he made better life choices than his brother, but then tries to negate his brother’s mistakes by blaming society–mind you, the same society where he himself was able to achieve much success as a writer, commentator and tenured college professor.

Related

Letter to My Brother, Everett, in Prison
Author: Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

Commentary: Me and my brother and black America
Author: Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

Two Brothers, Two Paths: Shades of Race
Author: Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

Links that refute negative claims about Black men