Monday, March 26, 2012

Dear Sinead: Blacks Don't Need Or Want A Lecture

'Sinéad Marie Bernadette O'Connor' photo (c) 2007, William Murphy - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
The murder of Trayvon Martin has many White allies speaking out.  This is an easy cause for them to get behind, while the everyday racist acts that lead to his death go ignored.  To make sure there is never ever another Trayvon Martin, we need to dismantle White supremacy, not just call out the blatant acts of violent racism when they occur.

Sinead O'Conner, whom I absolutely adore, wrote a piece on her blog about the murder of Trayvon.  When she spoke about the insidiousness of racism and the fact that we are all descended from one African mother, I found myself nodding, but like most White allies, she quickly derailed from support to paternalistic lecturing.
And black youth in America. I'm talking to you here too. I love you. So I don't mean to sound cross, I'm just being a mother.. Why are you killing each other? Why are you hating yourselves? You are the most important people God ever sent to this earth, every man, woman and child among you! Don't let uneducated people win and take your self-esteem or your esteem for each other, and make you kill each other. over guns, drugs, bling, or any other nonsense.
You are now entering YOUR version of a sort of civil rights movement and you're gonna see history being made in what has certainly the profoundest potential to become THE most wonderful country on earth. Because soon ALL 'isms' and 'sits'' will end. including racism, as the people of the earth begin to understand, we are all one.
We came from one mother. We are all brothers and sisters. And we CAN get beyond this ILLUSION of separateness. With prayer and love. It CAN change. It WILL change. And YOU guys (young people of all kinds) are the ones who are gonna GENTLY change it. And you know where it starts? With MUSIC.
Don't be guided by rap. Gangsta or otherwise. Sure.. enjoy it.. adore it.as I do.. but realize this.. rap ain't about your civil or spiritual rights, baby boys and girls. It.. along with most music nowadays.. is about falsenesses and vanities. Bling, drugs, sex, guns and people- dissing. Its giving you the message you ain't 'good enough' if you don't have bling and ting.. and money. Or if you're not what it deems 'sexy'.
(This is true of all popular music not rap alone. I know. Its tragically true of all popular youth culture the world over).
Poor Curtis Mayfield must be crying all day and night ALL day and night in heaven, every day and night.. To see what has been so successfully achieved by those who sent guns, drugs, and bling to squash the civil rights movement. Now you all don't have to be murdered by racists any more.. you're murdering each other FOR them! And your parents and grandparents are left crying.
Go back to strong black musical guides who left you information in the 60s and 70s. when they were living through the civil rights struggle. Curtis Mayfield. The Impressions. Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson. Sing back the Holy Spirit ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, as those artists did.
Forget bling. Forget "Get Rich Or Die Trying". That is an evil message. Evil my dears is only life backwards. Turn it the right way up. With music. The messages American black youth are being given through music are not about the spiritual and therefore strong and conquering but PEACEFUL making of YOUR country into the wonderful place it secretly is and can be.. BECAUSE OF YOU, and BY YOU!!
You know not how you are adored, appreciated, valued, loved, cried for,smiled for, prayed for, all over the world. You know not how much inspiration and uplift-ment of heart you give to millions just by your presence on earth. [source]
Here's the deal: Black on Black crime is most certainly a problem in our communities, but you don't get to change the conversation from talking about the death of Trayvon, to lecturing us about our behaviour. The issue at stake here are the crimes committed against us and whether Sinead realizes it or not, the crime that is running rampant in our communities is not about gansta rap; it's about White supremacy and capitalism. We don't need a paternalistic White earth mother deciding that she can lecture us on how to make changes.  Why is it so damn hard for White people to follow instead of lead?

People turn to crime because they are shut off from opportunities.  The education system has specifically attacked youth of colour through disconnecting them from our history and purposefully under educating them. Look through the average text book and what you will see is White face after White face.  This implies that Blacks have never contributed a thing to this world.  Our students are geared specifically towards trades, or sports - they are never encouraged to actively learn.  Even those who do magically get a scholarship for university, arrive woefully unprepared to compete at a college level because they have not been properly prepared.  The lucky few who do manage to graduate with a mountain of debt, find no mercy in the job market.  When White America has a recession, communities of colour have a depression.  Tell me again why crime doesn't seem like a good option to these kids?

Lecturing Black people to stop the violence and to stop internalizing negative messages is ridiculous.  How hard is it for White people to decolonize their mind and own their privilege, but somehow it should be a simple walk in the park for these kids, who have been raised to believe that they have absolutely zero value.  The problem does not begin and end with Black people, it begins and ends with White supremacy and capitalism.  There is also the issue that even in cases where Blacks are not violent, they are subjected to stop and frisk policies and actively targeted by police forces across North America.  The high rates of imprisonment constitute a form of neo-slavery.  As much as some whine about the cost of incarceration, the return of the chain gang proves that Whiteness still wants Black labour free of charge to build and support infrastructure.  When you are not adequately paying someone for their labour, it amounts to slavery.  Think about how many innocent Black youth are in prison because they could not afford a decent lawyer, or because police have trumped up spurious charged.  Of course, once marked as criminal, they are even further stigmatized creating the revolving door principal. Capitalism and racism combined negatively impact the life of Black youth across the disaspora.  They are violent, but somehow until someone gets shot, the violence gets ignored.

Instead of talking to us, her energies should be aimed at her fellow White people.  To be perfectly honest, we don't need her opinion of which heroes or sheroes we need to uplift and remember, and we certainly don't need her advice on how best to move forward as a community.  Sinead's post exemplifies exactly how White allies get it wrong when they begin talking about race.  The very fact that she decided to refer to herself as mothering us proves that people of colour are often reduced to the role of children who need guidance, even in affairs in which we clearly have expert status.  Even with the best of intentions, which I believe Sinead most certainly has, unless you are prepared to release power you will inevitably reaffirm the very messages you claim to be fighting. The way to be an ally is not to lead, but to listen.