Archived Story

It’s important to discuss issues

Published 8:27pm Monday, April 14, 2014

By Joseph Bass

It is refreshing to see the people beginning to be able to frankly discuss racial issues. Our inability to speak honestly among ourselves has hindered understanding of each other for many years. How can we create a society in which race makes no difference if we cannot talk candidly about one of the most important issues of our time?

A part of this positive pattern involves black Americans finding it acceptable to be called “black.” For example at one time it was considered hurtful for a light-skinned black person to call a dark-skinned black person “black.”

As we can now see, this was bigotry against black people by black people. Today many black Americans find pride in being black.

There is a long history of people eventually feeling pride in a name given to them with the intent of it being hurtful. Consider the following examples.

“Yankee Doodle went to town/Riding on a pony/Stuck a feather in his cap/And called it macaroni.” The song was written by British military officers to make fun of Americans as “country bumpkins” attempting to emulate an English fashion trend.

In the language of colonial times a “doodle” was a name for a fool or simpleton. Macaroni was a foppish fashion among English dandies that adopted feminine mannerisms and extravagant dress. The implication of the song was that American soldiers were unsophisticated, feminine simpletons who thought they could be fashionable by sticking a feather in their caps.

As we know Americans take pride in being called a “Yankee Doodle” and singing the song is patriotic. Yankee Doodle is the Connecticut state song.

Another example of this pattern can be seen among homosexuals. The name “queer” was originally meant to be harmful. We could identify progress toward their acceptability when a group of homosexuals organized themselves into an action group called “Queer Nation.”

The use of the word “black” and the phrase “black enough” has been particularly hurtful, harmful, and divisive among black Americans. Being called “not black enough” was meant to be hurtful. The phrase implies that a black person is “selling out” to the “white culture.”

This same pattern can be seen among my Native American relatives. To be “not Indian enough” is meant to imply that a Native American person is “selling out” to the “white culture.”

The psychologist Abraham Maslow tells us that the most successful people are those that are comfortable and accepting of who they really are. This can be seen in the lives of highly successful, black business people, including Barack Obama, Robert Johnson, Bill Cosby, Donahue Peebles, Berry Gordy, Quintin Primo and others. These are people that ignore superficial aspects of their blackness and focus their lives and efforts of being successful in the multi-cultural, American mainstream.

Our inability to speak honestly among ourselves has hindered understanding of each other. We cannot create a society in which race makes no difference if we cannot talk candidly about one of the most important issues of our time.

As this positive trend continues, we will move closer to achieving Dr. King’s dream of the color of a person’s skin making no difference in our relations among all Americans.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at ABetterSociety1@aol.com.

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