When Monique stepped on stage to accept her Best Supporting Actress award at the Oscars, residents in California could hear the residents in New York. Polemics and cheers ruled the Twitterverse and before I could click that update button, a torrent of tweets flooded my timeline.
“Thanks. Exactly what we need, another award for playing a debilitating African American character.”
“Why can’t people just be happy for a person’s victory?”
“The world sees us a certain way, and as long as we play our “role”, we’ll continue to get rewarded like this.”
I was among the throng who was vocal about Monique’s “victory.” But then a bad case of deja vu struck: How many times will black people have this argument among ourselves while schools are still closing, the prison industrial complex inches upward and sexual transmitted diseases continue to ravage our community?
There’s a term for this: intellectual classism.
Many think of classism only in the corporeal sense. Money and status are the predominate prisms of how class is viewed in this country. Intellectual classism is not race dependent. Nor salary dependent. Nor gender dependent. Anybody of any sex of any race can and does exercise their right to assert mental superiority.
When it comes to the African-American community, the division between the “noble” and “commoners” are well-documented. Take for example: The Afristocracy and Ghettocracy. Money and educational level (in the degree sense) are basic determinants of admission into each.
Afristrocratic thought can’t fathom why other black people can’t see beyond the trees; ghettocratic thought doesn’t understand why other black people can’t see the trees.
“Get educated. Help yourselves out.” says the Afristocracy.
“Get off your high horse and help change some of these conditions. Not everybody has access to your resources” says the Ghettocracy.
Imagine a child dealing with tumult everyday before going to school. Every day. That child is marginalized before he/she even steps out the house.
Years of being the minority and dealing with the fecal gravity of damaging policies from politicians and country runners tend to exacerbates a superiority – or inferiority – complex of ANY kind.
Did Monique’s recent Oscar acquisition perpetuate the notion that there’s always a place in Hollywood for the stereotypical black role? Well, it certainly didn’t change it.
Does Tyler Perry’s career encourage that same thought? One would argue that it does, while another would say that his films are reflective of certain segments of black culture, like the Cosby Show.
In the midst of this ideological battle, Haiti is still in tatters. Detroit is turning into mini-Beirut. Drugs are tearing apart a family near you (or possibly yours). Inner-city war zones, diseases, abortions, sedentary lifestyles are destroying the proliferation of healthy African-Americans.
The achievement gap is widening, yet, many of us are concerned with determining who is out-cooning who. I’ve shared similar thoughts and have even wrote pieces examining this intellectual class warfare. But then I’ve seen the eyes of a child who was walking to school after a snowstorm.
This child could give a damn about how nuanced Spike Lee’s films are or how morally upstanding a Republican senator is. She just wanted to know where her next meal will come from.
There’s nothing wrong with having debates on the media and entertainers and political agenda. We must, as Malcolm X reminded us, not confuse the methods with the objectives. Who are we leaving this world behind to? How many children will have to raise themselves while we’re participating in fruitless moral debates?
While the rest of the world is dealing with realities beyond the effects of coonery, many black people in America would rather puff about standards of behavior. Until we get tired of asserting our intellectual supremacy, progress will be merely a wish.
And all we will be left with is just a lot of vaporous words.