Saturday, February 03, 2007

news and négritude

It's not easy being black.

Not being black myself, I can't say that I know this from personal experience, but recent cases brought to light at the Drudge Report highlight the fact that the US still has a long, long way to go when it comes to racism. I give us credit for being, at the very least, willing to engage in open (and often spirited) discussion about our problem, but honesty demands that I give us poor marks for our progress thus far.

While I'm not a fan of political correctness, I'm also not a fan of utterances like "He's so articulate!" when applied to black folks by white folks. It's a remark that betrays a demeaning condescension, surprise resulting from low expectations. In Korea, the equivalent of such an expression might be, "Wow, you speak Korean so well! You're almost Korean!"-- as applied to non-Korean expats by Koreans. Everyone will insist, when such a remark is made, that the speaker's intentions are good. I don't doubt this, but I also know that the speaker is voicing his own ignorance. Complimenting the foreign interlocutor's Korean ability is one thing; moving from that to "You're almost Korean!" is quite another.

Democrat Senator Joe Biden recently got himself into hot water for slipping into Patronizing Whiteness Mode when he praised presidential hopeful Barack Obama for, among other things, being "clean" and "articulate." Biden has been rightly ridiculed for his remarks, which smack of the down-home condescension so often associated with members of the GOP.

Also in the news is Paris Hilton, who was caught on video at a party, dancing badly with her sister and saying directly into a hand-held camera, "We're like two niggers!"

Biden has tried to rescue himself by saying that he meant "clean" in the sense of "upright" or "having integrity." This is plausible, though in my opinion improbable, especially when the word "clean" is placed in context with the rest of his sentence (lefties will, of course, note that President Bush also said Obama was "articulate").

Hilton, on the other hand, probably shouldn't even try to say anything in her own defense. Throwing her into a pit filled with starved, cocaine-jacked chihuahuas might make for a fitting end to the bitch, but I'd rather watch her suffer. I hope this video makes her persona non grata everywhere in the non-white world. Alas, I doubt that will happen, because money talks.

Being a half-Korean in Korea offers me a golden opportunity to witness and experience several types of racism, but I don't kid myself into thinking that my situation compares with what black Americans go through in their daily encounters with other races. People like Biden and Hilton stand as evidence that, if you're black and in the United States, the road ahead is all uphill.


1 comment:

Maven said...

Speaking of Joey B's "hoof in mouth" disease (as it pertained to the Obama "cleanness" bit), here's a podcast from one of the radio shows I enjoy, where the topic of Obama's "cleanness" is discussed.