I dont know about you but I need racism. Just imagine a world without racism. It would be boring.
Cambridge police officers arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr. for supposedly breaking into his own home on July 16th after receiving an anonymous call about someone jimmying the lock to a Cambridge residence. Even more than an example that confirms that dark, subtle or not-so-subtle racial profiling still exists in America, the arrest was a satisfying opportunity to languish in the underlying indulgence of the racism. To put it simply, sometimes we love racism because it feels good to have something to overcome.
Bear with me. This has the potential to backfire on me.
I am by no means saying that Henry Louis Gates Jr. was happy that this unfortunate situation happened to him, but I am saying he rightfully indulged it. When I first heard the news about his arrest, I was in the living room lounging with my roommates in our four bedroom apartment in Harlem. The first thing I said was, That is the wrong Black man to arrest! Truly, if any police officer arrests a man like Henry Louis Gates Jr., he will not get a quiet suspect. That person will get an angry Black man who shines a blinding flashlight on the social implications of the matter. He will get an angry Black man who says something similar to what Henry Louis Gates Jr. said to the two Cambridge police officers at his doorstep: Why, because Im a Black man in America? Sure, Henry Louis Gates Jr.s arrest was f**ked up, but to a Harvard professor the value that such an incident has to expose the termite of racism that still eats at our society more than makes up for the pain and suffering.
Thats why world needs racism. Not the strange fruit, vinegar whip, or tied to the back of a Texas truck racism (please lord put that back in Pandoras box and swallow the key). Im talking about the subtle, I-cant-believe-what-this-white-guy-said-to-me-at work type of racism. Before you say Im putting my foot in my mouth, let me remind you what it feels like to be a Black man.
Like many African-American males, Ive experienced my share of racism. White ladies sitting next to me on the train have clutched their purse tighter. Taxis that I thought I had flagged down have whizzed by me. Gap customers have mistaken for me an employee time and time again. When I was 18, a complete stranger asked what college I was attending. When I told him, his follow-up question was Youre going there to play basketball, right? S**t, one time around 3am, an undercover cop car pulled up beside my car, ran the red light goading me to do the same, and still pulled me over when I didnt.
As much as these instances get me riled up, in a weird way, I am proud of them. These are my stories. I often tell them in a fun, entertaining way. I love the fact that although they show the ugly face of racism in my society, I overcame them. Maybe I have just been indoctrinated to accept the limits of my world, but if I woke up one day and there was no racism, it would be a nightmare for me. There would be nothing to overcome, nothing to make jokes about, nothing to get the better of. ’
Thats why if you ask most Brown children if they want to be White theyll stare you down with a glare of wtf-ness because there is a still undeniable flavor and resiliency that oppressed peoples have which is sweeter than any privilege and prestige associated with being White.
Thats also why the media is making this particular instance of racism, Henry Louis Gates Jr. vs. The Police when it really should be Henry Louis Gates vs. The Racist-Anonymous-Tipper-Who-Thinks-That-All-Black-Men-Who-Fidget-With-Door-Locks-Are-Burglars. By barely acknowledging the 911 call itself, we are not even addressing the real act of racism. Until it is legitimately address, Henry Louis Gates arrest is merely an identification of racism and not an earnest to combat or eliminate it. For right now, Im fine with that.
Sidik Fofana is a contributing writer for AllHipHop.com, okayplayer.com, seeingblack.com and the Source magazine. He graduated from Columbia University in 2005, with a BA in English. He currently lives in Harlem, NY. His blog is http://cornerboyjazz.blogspot.comEditor’s note: AllHipHop would rather be bored than deal with the scourge of racism. 🙂