How black is black enough? How Jewish?
I was fortunate this weekend to get the band back together. Marc Danziger and I have been carving space from our day job schedules to hang out and let it all hang out. As usual we have fairly snappy discussions. You should see us when the whole gang gets together. That will be happening more often this summer. In the meantime we ask, under the banner of tribal belonging how being cosmopolitain from an ethnic ‘minority’ makes one the same or different from one’s ‘people’. We get into various personal weeds.
Where we get into some interesting things is when we get to the notion of existential threat, be it via race treachery, deus ex class, ethnic diversity, selling out or becoming something of a mutt. While I recognize the sentiments of an in group that suffers some generational trauma that defines them and makes them anti-fragile (I have said before that African Americans are anti-fragile to racism) I find myself always more attracted to the challenges of moving forward - of heeding mostly the stories of heroism. There is something very different in retention of a history of suffering than a playing into a narrative victimology, but they often get confused. One can still acknowledge hardship and how it makes you better for it and not seek sympathy, but simply demand respect. This is the respect born of overcoming, not of being overcome, and this is what I understand as a parent that it is my obligation to pass on.
If you’ve ever watched the movie Crooklyn by Spike Lee, it plays on the trope of taking city mice out to meet their country cousins. I absolutely love Delroy Lindo in that film and he’s incredibly underrated as an actor. I’m not sure Hollywood knows how to write for the kind of man he could portray. Aside from all that, I think there is something of a mistake in forcing one’s children to face the exact same traumas of the Old Country. It’s a hit or miss proposition. We cannot keep the same things real generation after generation. I say only war can do that and everything else is a half-step. This half step is just as likely to generate resentment or disrespect for the struggles of the prior generation when contrasted to a history of a rising tide. This is why I think my father decided against being a Shriner, Elk and Mason like his old man, and came out to live in California instead of staying in Connecticut.
I also want to highlight my statement about nothing special about black Americans who integrate or who do not. Those on both sides of the equation understand no matter what happens there will always be enough blackfolks to retain a center of cultural gravity. So it comes as no surprise that there is a two term black President at the very same time where there are single children from large black families who are the first to attend college. Trying to tie down the locus of blackness is like successfully nailing Jello to the wall. It’s pathetic and sad to crucify a dessert and it messes up your wall. What we need more is blackness unchained. At least that’s what I need, because I struggle against the presumptions that are now commercialized as ‘pride’.