In honor of Black History Month, it seems necessary to review where we are going in addition to where we have been. Black people, we have got to do better. These are my top inter-culture crimes we should do all we can to continue to avoid in 2009.

Broke vs. Bougie
Integration, with all of its promises of equality, has decimated black on black relations; most notably in terms of classism. It seems, once people of color move on up to the “eastside”, they completely forget about those they left back in the bricks. Classism is a big problem among African-American communities. Many of us are so eager to “be accepted” as equals that we are real quick to forget where we came from. What’s even worse is that once many of us are granted access to this imaginary society of success, we are even more resistant to lend a hand back and pull someone else up.

Bill Cosby’s comments back in 2004 in which he stated, “the lower economic people are not holding up their end,” failed to acknowledge that these same lower economic people are the ones forced into failing schools, victims of police brutality and harassment, and often times lack the role models and access to information, that would allow them to change or improve their situations. Everyone from Roland Martin, Tavis Smiley to Stanley Crouch applauded the Cos’ efforts to berate the least of us.

My question is why must there be a least? Why are all the people with money so ready to criticize the people who have none? Knowing all of the hardships that plague Blacks in America, where is the outreach to make a difference in that “lower economic” persons life so maybe they can be the catalyst to move their family toward a new direction.

Furthermore, I think it’s unfair to assume everyone who comes from the ghetto, is ghetto. As poorly written as it was, Cora Daniels’ GhettoNation is an excellent example. In her book, Daniels attempt to show that we are all ghetto, citing Paris Hilton, Elizabeth Hurley, Gwyneth Paltrow and herself as illustrations. What she doesn’t explore is the very legitimate ghetto mentality and how some people are just happy being hood. Ignorance is ignorance, but never is poverty an automatic indicator of such. Is it a crime if you don’t aspire to be a doctor, or a lawyer or President of the United States?

Going forward good people, I hope we are quicker to give a helping hand than a verbal insult. This has less to do with not being accountable for our shortcomings as African-Americans and is more about opting not to look down our nose at our own, when they don’t live up to our expectation of what we think an African-American should be.

Star Power
Speaking of accountability let’s stop giving our athletes and entertainers a free pass. Numerous instances of sexual and domestic violence from these figures occur with impunity. The latest example of this in action: Chris Brown. I don’t care if Rihanna is crazy, gave him herpes, or whatever the story is now. The Chris Brown storyline is a clear indication that while only 19, Chris Brown still thought it was appropriate to assault a woman. What is worse is the entertainment community is validating him. All over the Internet, he is being defended and Rihanna is being blamed. I know neither of these people; I cannot shed any exact details on their particular situation. What I do know is a culture of abuse against women is damn near the point of veneration in sports and hip-hop and our media stands idly by. This encounter should have served as add the authentic culture of abuse toward women that exists in this country to our national conversation. Chris Brown, you need Jesus.

Lastly, after the Sleeping With Your Colonizer article, some really good sub-topics jumped off, like a blatant refusal on the behalf of brothers to date sisters who were natural or didn’t ascribe to a media induced image of beauty. My feelings on this topic are two-fold. Brothers, yes, you should stop cringing when you see a woman rocking her natural and normal hair, hair that isn’t long enough for you to pull, or no hair at all. Yet ladies, let’s say no to weave this year. Tell yourself that you love yourself and the hair that grows out of your head is good enough for you. In worsening economic times, being natural is less expensive, and says you’re not ashamed of your God given beauty. More so, women in other countries are having their hair stolen right off their heads so you can rock a ponytail. The first step in getting men to realize the beauty in our naturalness, is accepting as truth for ourselves first.

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  • keke

    I do think that it is a huge overstatement to say that women who wear weaves do not love themselves. I have worn short hair for almost about 3 years now, but every once and a while, I like to rock a weave just to switch it up and have a different look. I don’t do it because I don’t love myself, I just like to play with my look; its fun for me.

    I do think that there is an element of contention amongst successful black people and those that are still in the hood and it goes both ways. I have lived in the hood my whole life. Yet, I went to private schools K-12, I went to college and graduated and I currently work at a university…and I still live in the hood.

    When I was younger I was teased b/c I speak Standard English,never been in a fight,never smoked weed. I got called a sell-out cause of the schools I went to, I was told I was trying to be white. Even though I experienced this I never hated the people who said that about me and I love being black. But I don’t define my blackness by the schools I attend my or the hood I live in. It is who I am, it is my family, it is who I see when I look in the mirror and I love me.

    Black people just have to learn to accept diversity in our race and our culture. We are not defined by specific criteria….we can step outside of the low expectations and we can reach back and give each other a hand.

  • Michelle Wright

    Good article, bad ending. I’m tired of reading about how wearing a weave means we’re somehow trying to subscribe to a ‘white beauty ideal’ I rock a short natural afro, my hair is so picky (or nappy as you say in America) that I have to completely saturate it in water just to get a wide-toothed comb through it. But I also rock braids, weaves & wigs, because I like to mix it up.
    Speaking as a young, black and upwardly mobile woman, I’m not ashamed of my hair, my heritage or where I’ve come from, however after exhausting all other (natural) hair styling options available to me, I do get bored.
    As long as we’re comfortable in whom we are then confidence will naturally exude from within, regardless of our choice of hairstyle.

    I do acknowledge that some women use the external weave to compensate an internal inferiority complex they may have, but where does that leave the rest of us who just want to have some fun experimenting?
    Please don’t taint us all with the same brush.

  • c. gabi

    I understand how people feel about those who leave “the bricks” and move on “up to the eastside”, but as someone stated before, what about those of us who were already born on the eastside?

    I’m a 4th-generation, college educated Black woman. With the exception of one grandparent (who owned several businesses), my other 3 grandparents have advanced degrees. My great-grandfather served as a diplomat and lived abroad (and was Chocolate Brown to boot). I realize that I’m an anomaly to what the “typical” Black experience is.

    What bothers me most is those who do come from humble beginnings and actively seek some level of “bougie-dom”. Their ambition isn’t driven by wanting to be successful and give back to those less fortunate, but is driven by the desire to mix and mingle amongst those they think are bougie/affluent.

    They think if they go to the “right” schools, join the “right” orgs, date the “right” people then they’ll be considered “one of”. It’s like, are you kidding me? There is so much discussion garnered around “bougie” people not having any street cred and pretending to be ghetto. Yet, I rarely ever hear the discussion when it’s the other way around. I find it easier to be accepting of people when they just be themselves and acknowledge where they came from where, WHEREVER that is.

    I think it’s unfair to blame upper/upper-middle class Blacks just as much as it is to blame lower income Blacks about who is responsible for what. I also think that it’s really just not as black and white as we’d like to think it is.

  • Keke…I too was teased in middle/high school by many a young black man or woman commenting on my speech, they way I dressed, because my hair didn’t need to be permed and that I was “trying to sound white”. I found myself apologizing for things that I had no control over, consequently my sister and I had a huge identity crisis that drove us in other directions. We actively sought out different kinds of music and culture because we were rejected by our own. To their credit, our parents didn’t stop us, they didn’t always like what we listened to but they let us nevertheless. I feel like those experiences enriched us beyond belief.

    I too don’t define my blackness by the schools I attended and the hood I live in. What kills me is that most black people are afraid to step outside the box of what being black in America has been defined to be. Be yourself, rock what you wanna rock, listen to what you want to listen to be who you WANT to be. Being culturally diverse is so much more enriching than hating on people for striving for what they feel is the best for THEM.

  • Ursula

    Very very interesting take. This site is becoming my fave with every article I read.