Monday, April 26, 2010


I'm supposing, by the fact that you are able to read this post, that you survived the 28-day minimal infusion of black heritage into popular culture and the month of Feb. known as Black History Month. Yes, I know, that was in February, but let's flash back. If you are black, all of your white friends were nice to you, you watched a few PBS specials and you might have even attended some gala, dinner or prayer breakfast for other culturally astute folks. I tried my best not to fall into a routine this year. I did so by purposefully glossing over it. I wanted, instead, to look at what the new frontier of racism is. And while you may figure that I'm about 2 months late on analyzing anything having to do with black history. I beg to differ. The issue of race is always relevant. Or is it?

Since its seems that less black people are being lynched, denied access to drinking fountains or Public universities, I have to wonder if there are other issues to focus attention on. (Notice I didn't say full attention. I recognize that issues of race still require attention and occasional outrage.) Or rather, issues underlying perceived racism. Through my observation, I have noticed that what we are dealing with some equally toxic isms. Classicism, sexism, capitalism... Sure, these isms have always existed, separating the haves from the have nots, the guys from the gals and those who own from those who owe, but the recession has placed a microscope on the matter. The recession has caused role reversals in households and a shifting of our views on poverty. I'm aware that there are entire anthologies of study on the topic and that there is a great deal to unpack in this discussion. My friend even suggested writing this blog in parts....we'll see. For now, let's opt for a quick definition of "ism" shall we?

(1) A belief that can be described using the suffix ism (Gee, thanks Google search!)

(2) Doctrine: a belief (or system of beliefs) accepted as authoritative by some group or school

Ex. Classism is prejudice and/or discrimination on the basis of social class. It includes individual attitudes and behaviors, systems of policies and practices that are set up to benefit the upper classes at the expense of the lower classes. (Courtesty of the illustrious Wikpedia )
**For complete list of ISMS visit:**
There are even websites devoted to the cause of dismantling social classes and consequently classism. But strangely enough these "sub-isms " as I call them dont seem to bother most of us. I think that many of us are less threatened by the idea of classicism and sexism because we think, "Well, its not as bad a racism." Oh really? So discriminating against someone because they are black is worse than doing so because they are poor? Or a woman? Hmmm. Sounds the same to me. I think that many of us are either untrained in spotting "sub-isms" or unconcerned about eradicating them. Perhaps it's because some of these "sub-isms," particularly classism, rely heavily on personal and community values rather than one specific trait. If the mistreament of a woman on the basis of sex is not important to you, or your neighbor, you are least likely to act. But if the issue is race, everyone is up in arms. There appears to be a greater level of justification for all "sub -isms" than there should be. It's a big umbrella under which we all stand from time to time. Pointing fingers and trading places.
What I love most about the examination of "sub-ism" is that it answers many questions that racism cannot. Like why black people in the ATL who live off Camp Creek are better than black folks on the West End. And why two black girls, same color skin can have two very different experiences going through the "system." and consequently engage in conflict regarding which of them is "more or less ghetto." In essence, sub-isms build a bridge in our society, reminding people that we all judge on some level, or presume on another level. Our isms drive our way of thinking. For those of you still completely and utterly confused about how this actually applies to your life. Read on.

Since President Obama took office people have been very selective about the ways in which we discuss race and the conclusions that we draw regarding race. That, in my opinion, is a good thing. I'd much rather believe that all of the Marcus', Dre's and Antwan's of the world could be the next Barack instead of the next Lil Wayne. The question is, how has the President's term changed our notions of all of these other "sub-isms"? While that's a tough question to answer, we've had healthcare reform as well as the steadily tanking economy as recent litmus tests. While it seems that stimulus and healthcare debates were just episodic duels between the Dems and Republicans, what we really saw was a modern day class struggle. It wasn't as much about white people vs. minorities as it was about haves and havenots. Meaning, there were plenty of people of all colors out of work and plenty of people, of all colors, who go to work everyday and do not have access to basic medical care *raises hand* So, for one of few times in their lives, a black family from NC who's primary source of income is cut when Dad is laid off and the white family from Michigan who falls on hard times because Mom is a recently out of work teacher have something in common. Perhaps they always have.
I bring this issue to the table because I am beginning to recognize what I called to to do in life. (By the way, the best thing about your 20's is having those daily "I figured out what I want to be when I grow up" moments). The world is living in a factionalized and fractionalized state of "isms." I believe in the reconcilliation of the pieces of the whole. Details coming soon...
My friend once said to me " Don't worry. We're all a bit classist." He's right, but we are still so very wrong. Because unless it's ok for us to tote our own predjudice around like a vile of sociological poison, we're responsible for breaking the cycle. And once again, don't get me wrong, I'm not at all suggesting that issues of race and racISM are irrelevant at this point in our history. I am suggesting, however, that sub isms deserve consideration by more than scholars and CNN pundits. We have much work to do on the front of "sub-isms" everywhere. And you, with your racist, classist, sexist, capitalist, anarchist self, are just the one to do it! :-)

1 comment:

Channing said...

Girl I always stand back amazed at your ability to engage your audience and encourage them to think beyond the surface. I thoroughly enjoyed this post and agree with you wholeheartedly, but I wonder if classism will ever really change because people hold on so deeply to the idea "I worked hard to get this, therefore it is fairly mine" mentality.

Great post girl! Love ya!