Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Soft Bigotry of Still Low Expectations

So Bill O'Reilly was surprised to discover that a place like Sylvia's in Harlem was a good solid upstanding normal restaurant. In an attempt to pay the establishment and its owners a compliment, O'Reilly let it be known that there are still mountains for black folks to climb (in his mind). Apparently, he was surprised by the audience and performers at an Anita Baker concert. I wonder if he thought that the band would be throwing back 40s, and Anita would be popping that booty.

It still amazes me that people still believe the worst about African Americans first, and then try to give surprised when hit with the realities that we bring to the table. Now don't get me wrong, if Flavor Flav and New York New York are your primary cultural references to contemporary African Americans, and you are juxtaposing those images with say Martin Luther King, Jr and Mahalia Jackson, then I can understand the disconnect. However, too many people who think this way work with black folks on a daily basis. They see with eyes wide open (or is it really eyes wide shut?) run of the mill, hard working black folks. But, so many (and I am certainly not referring only to white folks) people are quick to judge black folks uncharitably, and they are quite comfortable in their judgments.

It should come as no surprise that a phenomenon like "The Cosby Show" was almost alien to so many people. I nearly cried seeing the lives of people I knew and grew up with on television every Thursday. I loved the subtle message that "The Cosby Show" put forth. What black person can say that their appreciation of jazz didn't go up by the conclusion of the series? Who didn't feel validated in some way by that show? How many folks wanted to be Huxtables? I am smiling now, as I think about some of my favorite episodes and lines (Claire to Denise: "So you can take your money and go discover America."). How many people opted to check out HBCUs as a result of "The Cosby Show" and "A Different World?" Yet, the Huxtables were seen as an anomaly in the African American world. They were not seen as believable. Someone like O'Reilly would not see them as "really" black.

I am tired of hearing the pronouncements of folks who simply need to get out more. I am tired of black folks being viewed as cultural aliens within a culture that we helped to shape. And I am tired of the likes of Bill O'Reilly thinking that they know who black folks are and what black folks represent. Please.


Anonymous said...

Good job Free. I think, at least I hope, that most of the English speaking world is tired of Bill O'Reilley and his ilk. Biggie

BiblioDiva said...

Do you think he knows about places like Morehouse, Hampton U. and Edgartown? I'm pretty sure that the good folks of Oaks Bluff could set him straight on some things.

sweetcappela said...

Hear, hear! I concur. In addition I am exhausted by folks labeling behaviors as 'black' or not based on their own narrow thinking. I expressed to a co-worker that I am tired of seeing Tyler Perry dressed as a woman (Madea). I'm glad he is doing something else. Her comment was, "Oh, you're not black; everyone likes it." I did not comment; I returned to my office. ~~Sigh.

hscfree said...

Two things. First, I know that the multi-generational vac'ers on the Vineyard (or Sag Harbor) would have a thing or two to say to Bill. Second, Tyler Perry. I am not sure what to say here. He has not expressly disparaged the black GLBT community, but he seems quite comfortable in exaggerated drag outfits. Inconclusive.