Discover more from Stoic Observations
The Black Diversity Argument
Some brief clarity.
Author’s Note: While I do my primary edge of my mind writing here in Substack in 2023, there are persistent questions I get and seek out from areas of lower cosmopolitain KPIs. But it is always useful to keep an eye on where the people go, not just the people from whom you expect the most. So it’s important to answer stupid questions, at least once.
Q: What sucks most about being a black American?
A: The presumptions against black diversity. [Feb 2019]
There is a loud and vocal minority of black Americans who think that they represent all black Americans. They don’t. But because the news media is accustomed to having these people at hand, they continue something that is not quite stereotyping, but stereotyping anyway.
Say it. ‘Black Diversity’. Have you ever heard that phrase before? It’s something everybody knows is true but hardly ever talks about. Everybody knows a black person who is nothing like the black people on TV or in movies or wherever.
One of the consequences is that many Americans think they are doing all black people a favor in fighting racism against some black people. That would be perfect if any racism destroyed most black people. But the fact of the matter is all black America has survived and thrived despite all racism. Still, really you can’t say much of anything about all black America. I mean anything you say will be true for some fraction.
On the other side of this is black American expectation of unity from other black Americans. Chuck D said it best. ‘Every brother ain’t a brother.’ Or as De La Soul said ‘They call it the ‘hood because nobody’s neighbors.’. Black communities have historically been ghettoes, meaning forced places for black Americans to live. Few people chose to be among the people they lived with. And that seriously broke up in the 80s, both physically and culturally. There is no singular ‘black community’, and black Americans think and feel differently about themselves and each other.
Of course there is still affinity. It’s difficult to define the affinity between black Americans. I like to say that I come from a small town called Black. It’s a well-known place, but that was a long time ago. Now it’s practically a myth. Yet it’s a fairly useful mythology that all Americans share. The trick of course is to separate myth from reality.
It doesn’t suck to be black in America. It’s a challenge that we all understand and the overwhelming majority of us rise, face and beat. In 1960 there were 20 million Negroes in America and the majority of them lived in poverty. Today there are more than 42 million (that was 2010) and the majority of them live in the middle class. That’s the reality. “I am Trayvon Martin” is the myth.
The more I hear about race, the less I want to think about it and the more credibility I give to most every other way of describing people. The trafficking in race is so heavy it becomes burdensome for me specifically because of how I expected my racial identity to work for me. An interesting parallel might be found in those Americans who, through the COVID pandemic have found it increasingly difficult to reconcile their previously positive associations with American institutions and their very expectations of themselves as citizens. I hear such doubts and cynicism from self-identified conservatives who despise what the GOP has become under Trump and from self-identified liberals who despise what Progressives have done to their party.
I have decided to abandon all aspects of the various culture wars and skirmishes and reduce my attack surface. Psychologically as a Stoic this has already paid off handsomely with regard to The Abstention Principle.
A simple moral principle: when a future change is framed as a problem which we might hope our political system to solve, then the only acceptable reason to talk about the consequences of failing to solve that problem is to scare folks into trying harder to solve it. If you instead assume that politics will fail to solve the problem, and analyze the consequences of that in more detail, not to scare people but to work out how to live in that scenario, you are seen as expressing disloyalty to the system and hostility toward those who will suffer from that failure.
To find and avenue of retreat from the Culture Wars involves turning one’s back on a bit more than politics. Yet I do so with respect for the metaphysics. There are, it seems, more universal ways and means of communicating respect for people outside of what holds cultural sway in our society. I suppose it would be a great deal easier to do if I were fluent in a number of languages and spent time mingling elsewhere, but I’m handicapped. I’m short of talent and time.
What remains for me is the rational letter of the law, an appreciation for moral clarity, appreciation of music and things pastoral, and the virtues of physical health. Some of these can be expressed and appreciated outside of the realm of language, which is very exciting to me. To have an inner vocabulary expressed through my fingers on my piano keyboard or in my gardening gloves provides new horizons of expression far from the madding crowds.
I am losing dogs in many contemporary fights. Satisfaction is at hand. So I may tend to be reductive and dismissive of the complexities people are bound to expose and explain, but I’m laying down my sword and shield.
So let black diversity be whatever it might be. I’m certainly not the only one who can see it and it is relatively easy to evade the orthodoxies of those who cannot. But I’m not taking any contrarian positions. I have my own family and I don’t fear dying alone. So why suffer? We don’t need no trouble.