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Imitation of White
By Darryl James (Columnist)
Published January 22, 2009

I read a disturbing thread on an email listserv the other day. There was an alleged Black man apologizing to Whites who enslaved Blacks in this nation.

His apology was to Whites for the behavior of Blacks who are not grateful for being "saved" from their destiny in Africa. The self-hating moron went on to talk about how Black people have no real culture and should let go of the memory of slavery now that a Black man is moving into the White house.

It was disturbing even though I have heard the a**-kissing line before.

We hear about how slavery wasn't as bad as people say it was, how it wasn't really evil because it was pure commerce and how Blacks only came here to "help" the slave masters.

Here's the simple truth: Whites enslaved us for hundreds of years and oppressed us in Jim Crow for scores more. Now even many of us say that we should stop talking about White people and racism, even though the ugly institution and its aftereffects linger on like a ghost clinging to the corporeal world, long after the body is dead.

I want to shoot fools right in the face when they claim that racism is over and that we should stop talking about it. They claim that slavery was so long ago that it no longer matters.

Want me to stop talking about racism? Then stop talking about God and the sun, because they came into existence so long ago.

But there is clearly a dichotomy of thought surrounding slavery and the Black existence in America in the Black community.

In the Black community, those African descendants who claim that there is no racism or that our experience in this nation was beautiful are trying too hard to move away from Black reality and trying too hard to be White.

Yes, I said it. In 2009, there are African Americans who want nothing more than to be White and lying about the Black existence in this nation is the first step.

It is also a clear sign of the insanity resulting from unresolved issues that are often ignored, or pretended away.

In America, people of African descent were never given the opportunity to fully process and resolve issues stemming from slavery and the lingering Jim Crow era, nor institutionalized racism and racial preference.

The nation tells us we are healed, currently touting Barack Obama's ascension to the presidency as evidence. And while this is clearly a great start, there has been no intrinsic healing. Neither the end of slavery nor the Sixties have caused healing to occur.

Unarguably, the pervasiveness of the dominant White American culture has delivered issues of self-esteem and cultural confusion to the descendants of Africans in America.

Conversely, people of German Jewish descent were given multiple opportunities to fully process and resolve issues stemming from the Holocaust and the lingering negative psychological effects.

Mighty nations across the globe, including the United States came to the aid of German Jewish people, helping in the restoration of the culture and standing of those people.

Without the same opportunities and assistance, African descendants of slavery in The US have taken schizophrenic avenues following the end of slavery.

Unlike the descendants of German Jews, descendants of Africans in America have little usable cultural wealth, continuously diminishing cultural cohesion and as a result, cultural confusion.

Just as the effects of slavery are indelibly stamped on the souls of Black folk in America, so is the influence of White existence in America.

In many ways, some Blacks in America are living lives designed to imitate Whites.

This wouldn't be a huge problem if we could simply imitate Whites and accordingly, garner the privileges of White preference. We don't, but many of us continue to imitate Whites as though we don't understand that we can never be White.

We take the icing and pretend that it is the cake. But it always turns out the same way.

It's like kids mimicking their parents. You can walk big in my shoes and jacket, but you can't go to work and get a check.

We're so quick to abandon what we are in order to become something else, that we forget to be ourselves, and forget that we have value.

Even when we are acting Black, we are acting the way that the dominant culture sees us, doing what's acceptable to them. Our literature, comedy, music and even our public behavior plays this out. Our very existence is pimped out for White entertainment and then sold back to us as a guide for what is "authentically" Black.

Rap music and comedy are full of stupid, laughing Negroes, pandering to Whites by playing Niggers, all the while claiming to be revolutionary because they are making money. In their make-believe rebellion, they are playing to the favor of White folks. Instead of sustaining Public Enemy, we have sustained P-Diddy.

What was revolutionary was when Blacks were talking about something real and didn't care. Now Negroes talk about whatever is supposed to be cool according to the mainstream, because they care too much what Whites think and so imitate Whites or parody what Whites think we should be.

We are caricatures of caricatures.

Far too many Black men are caught up in a dichotomy demonstrated by either playing dress up with stupid hip hop gear at age 40 or business suits and "Malcolm X" glasses while doing nothing productive. And some of them who shouldn't even be having sex, have babies they don't take care of, giving the world the impression that they are the majority of us.

On the other side, far too many Black women are having children alone on purpose, after having too much sex and then turning around and calling themselves strong Black women for such behavior. No one seemed to understand how ignorant and counterproductive the song "Baby Mama" was…

All of the above is behavior indicative of attempts to be White, who have no image problem, so bad behavior is clearly assigned to the groups of Whites who, well, behave badly.

Blacks have never had that luxury, because our worst behavior is assigned to all of us, even if the behavior is only exhibited by a small number of us.

Yet, we stick our chests out and pretend that we have arrived, and most of us aren't even aware of the destination. Barack Obama is president and too many of us are still acting like the Niggers that racists think we are, while pretending that we are dignified.

The problem is that we don't even realize that we are not guests at the party. We're like the waiter who went into the kitchen, took his White coat off and pretended that he was a guest. Eventually, he is discovered and expelled from the party, after losing his job.

The challenge that lies before us as we celebrate the first African American President is to identify our own cultural path and then follow it for our own benefit, no matter who says what about it.

We will finally overcome when we begin to be ourselves.

And then we won't have to imitate White folks.

Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology "Notes From The Edge." He released his first mini-movie, "Crack," and will soon release his first full-length documentary. View previous installments of this column at Reach James at

Categories: The Bridge

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