If it wasn’t obvious before why the #BAM movement was necessary, the recent decision by the Supreme Court to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 should serve as an example. This is the basis of what I speak about in terms of race relations in this country. The fact that we have a Black President doesn’t show we’ve evolved, but to the contrary, it validates those who wish to believe we have finally overcome racial discrimination.
A Dream Deferred . . .
As much as I respect the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, I feel Malcolm X’s idea for the Black American was/is a better solution. I am convinced that we will never absolve racism, whose roots of White privilege and supremacy lie too deeply embedded in the American psyche. The idealist dream that one day racism will just pass and die off like a fad is a farce. The biggest problem with killing off racism is that there are hardly any racists left, so how to you hit an invisible target?
I bet those 4 White judges that made the decision to strike Section 5, with the help of Uncle Clarence Thomas that put them over the top, don’t fancy themselves anymore racist than Paula Deen. To some degree, they would be right. You see, racism is never the work of an individual. It’s a collective operation that has been perpetuated over generations. Those that argue that the Trayvon Martin slaying was a racist act would be wrong. George Zimmerman is a bigot who acted out of prejudice. What’s racist is that had it not been for Al Sharpton calling it to national attention, Zimmerman most likely would have never been put to trial.
4 out of the 5 judges are racists. Clarence Thomas is Black and it is not possible for a Black man to be racist, even as a Supreme Court judge, he is still a minority. In order to be racist, one must have dominion over others politically and economically, which, as Black Americans, we are not in a position to use our collective power to discriminate against the White majority.
Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American.
No, We Can’t All Just Get Along . . .
At this point, racism is an elusive, philosophical construct that denies its own existence. You cannot disable racism. It is impossible. Many greats have died trying and have ultimately been successful. All they have managed to do, at best, is to make racism harder to identify. It now hides in the corners of society. The privileged refuse to own it and the oppressed have grown numb to it. The privileged and those that have been indoctrinated now believe that the very mention of race is the biggest proponent of its livelihood. This is nothing but a very evolved sense of escapism.
It must be nice to believe that racism can be absolved simply by White ceasing to be White, Black ceasing to be Black, and so forth, when the problem is a lot more complicated than that. The cessation of racial identification is a change in terminology only, not an upheaval from the ideology of centuries worth of programming by means of colorism. So to simply say, “Stop being White or Black,” doesn’t end the race card game anymore than “Just say no,” ended the War on Drugs. Nifty slogans and clichés ain’t gon’ get it, baby.
Racism is not simply a melanin-based proposition, it’s all that goes along with it. You can stop calling it “White” overnight, but putting an end to the supremacy and privilege that coincides with it is not so simple, especially if you’re not fond of addressing it. The move from Black to African-American was popularized in the late ’80s by Jesse Jackson and others, but we have still not overcome. And to those who believe that White privilege ended with President Obama’s election, you have been grossly mislead. A name change alone can’t erase the colonial imprint. Everything in America is still ruled and run by White wealth—Black President included. The majority is still the majority, regardless of what you wish to call it, which means everyone else falls into the minority category by default.
The #BAM discussion and this SCOTUS decision are related. It has to do with Black Americans not being acknowledged and ever truly accepted as citizens in this country. An amendment does little justice for a people who were not written in the Constitution to begin with. Jazz allows people to forget and overlook where this music comes from. Post-race is a large reason why this amendment was repealed and bring Blacks back to pre-Civil Rights status, which is not entirely bad, because—in many ways—the Black American community was better off before integration.
As American As Mom, Baseball and Apple Pie . . .
Black Americanism suffers from the same stigmatism as Jazz: We don’t allow ourselves to evolve past the ancestral flaws. Just the same, we still hold much reverence for a very flawed Constitution. Most of the great Afrocentric thinkers still get caught up in the old model, which leads to the same end as our ancestors. You can’t find a new pathway as long as you keep traveling down the same road. The best of us know to draw strength from ancestry, but not many of us think about how to repair flaws in the lineage.
“Baseball was a bastion of whiteness, infused with new life by its Africanization. It still separates African Latin & Anglo players by category. Africans in the US contested baseball like no other sport. The Negro Leagues were our largest Black business. Integration destroyed it.”
—Dr. Greg Carr, chair of Howard University’s Department of African American Studies
Our House Is A Berry, Berry, Berry Fine House
Say what you will about Berry Gordy’s treatment of artists, but what he did with Motown was epic: Black music, by Black artists, on a highly successful label owned by a Black man. We have supposedly evolved as a people, but nothing like it exists today. Even the top-selling Black artists who have their own imprints are just subsidiaries of major labels controlled by The Establishment. Dare I say it, but Black Americans were better off in 1964 than we are now. Not only have we not grown, but we’ve regressed. We had better schools, safer neighborhoods and more control over our economic base—primarily because we were forced to spend within our own communities.
The Gap Band
With the wealth gap widening between Black and White over the past several years, it’s unlikely that there’s an end in sight. Wealth, unlike income, is more likely to be perpetuated from generation to generation. Those from more well-to-do families, which are disproportionally White, are in a better position to help their kids through college and give them a head start into adulthood. The average Black family, which is struggling just to make bills every month, has very little to offer in the long run. Add to that the fact that Blacks are exploited far more by predatory loans than Whites and are subject to racially discriminatory lending practices, it’s no mystery why the Black community can’t get ahead.
The White wealth that runs this capitalist country could not have been established were it not for the Black Americans who were brought over here for free labor, just like all the White record labels, clubs and festivals that fuel the music industry would not have the success that it has without the contributions of Black Americans.
“The growth in the wealth divide is going to be very hard to close. I don’t have a positive feeling about racial wealth inequality resolving itself…”
-Dedrick Muhammad, Senior Director of the economic department at the NAACP
Technological Evolution = Social Devolution
Just like there are those who believe the word Jazz has evolved, those Republican SCOTUS judges believe that America has evolved, by virtue of a Black President. These issues are fundamentally the same and indicative of the racist attitudes that are still pervasive within the Jazz community and this country at large. It’s the illusion that somehow we’ve moved past the historic connotations of oppression that leads us into this very dangerous terrain. It’s not just about a terminology or a written law, it’s about the ethos and attitudes that lie underneath.
Most Blacks that play what I call Black American Music, say they play jazz, and most of them are unconsciously complicit in their slavery. Uncle Clarence Thomas is a bigot, but it is not possible for him to be racist. Collaborating with racists is entirely different than being a racist. White supremacy and privilege is what feeds racism, at the moment. It is not possible for Thomas to assert White supremacy or privilege, no matter how racially self-hating he may be. Clarence Thomas is not a racist, he is a House Negro. Big distinction between the two. What got Clarence Thomas into Yale is affirmative action, not White privilege.
No, you cannot dismantle racism, but you can liberate those whose mindsets fall prey to oppressive thought patterns. You can’t break bad habits. You can only foster creativity and reinforce good form. Homogeneity is not the answer. We don’t all have to be the same to get along. How boring would the world be without color? Why is being colorblind optimal? Art, music, economics and politics all have a color and the world is more interesting because of it. Cultural diversity should be celebrated without fear of domination from others. Mutual respect is what’s needed. There’s enough room in the world for everyone’s heritage to thrive without risk of extinction of one’s own aesthetic landscape.
Stand Up And Get Down!
If Black Americans don’t start making a stand in this country for who they are and recognize and celebrate their culture, we can expect to see more of a decline within our community. To be clear, I never said we should rebrand Jazz to Black music. They are not the same. Jazz is racist. It was from the beginning and still is. It was stolen from Black music, but Blacks don’t control the economics of the business. We don’t run the majority of the festivals nor the clubs. It’s not just marketing, Jazz marginalizes the music from its culture just as the SCOTUS decision marginalizes Blacks from participating in the so-called democratic process in a country we built. That is the crux of why #BAM is necessary.
Outside of inspiring thought, movements will never work. This has been tried time and again and they have all been infiltrated with the leaders either killed or vilified. And in today’s voyeuristic society, you won’t be able to make any moves without someone watching. My suggestion is to live a life in which you have nothing to hide.
“Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws.”
—Anselm Meyer Rothschild
Let me say it here for all who need the point driven home: It is not possible to end racism. There is no way to end White supremacy and privilege. The only end to oppression for the Black American is autonomy, by way of owning their own businesses and supporting them.
- Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop