Ebony magazine has a July 2007 cover story, stories, actually, in which it proclaims that it “engages Black America in an honest examination of race, language and the culture of disrespect.” It’s interesting, because in the time I’ve been reading Ebony, and it’s been, off and on, since I was a kid, this is the first time in a very long time that the magazine has provided multiple stories on one topic. Throughout, there was a timeline of race and language, then a series of articles. Worth reading, at least in the library.
The one piece that intrigued me the most is the one that suggests that there are thinks a member of the tribe can say that an outsider (say, a white male like Don Imus talking about black women) cannot. There’s a guy of Polish descent who I’ve played racquetball with, and he has occasionally provided himself with an ethnic slur that I would never say myself. This is an obvious notion that reminds me of a story from my childhood:
My sister Leslie was teasing our sister Marcia on the school playground; it wasn’t very nice. But when one of Leslie’s male friends started teasing Marcia with the same words, Leslie slugged him.
So my question is this: What do you say in your tribe or tribes, however you define it (ethnicity, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, fraternity, sorority, family) that is verboten when it comes from the outside? I’m really curious about this, because, except for very good friends, who I can tell when they’ve done an air-headed thing, I’ve never been all that comfortable with that kind of talk.
A couple things other people I read have discovered that interested me greatly.
1. From the U.K.’s Chris Black wonders whether attacks on Barack Obama as not black enough from some black groups might not make him even more attractive to some white voters. For a pol from across the pond, I think Mr. Black is pretty astute about American politics. “Not black enough” always reminds me of a Joan Armatrading lyric (from the title cut of an A&M EP, “How Cruel”)
“I had somebody say once my black was way too black,
And someone answer she’s not black enough for me.”
(I guess I’m not the only one who came to that conclusion. There’s a slow-loading Blogspot blog, Seattle for Barack Obama, that used that very quote.) I’m not sold on Senator Obama, but these kinds of attacks make him more sympathetic, I think.
2. The guy in the overalls found this citation to a 1970 DC Comics survey, conducted by a groovy Flash and a Superman we can dig, asking their readers to rap about what they’re interested in reading about. (Rap meant something different in 1970.) Right there between “pollution” and “space flights” is “black people”. I think that in 1970, I probably would have been offended, but now, it’s just hysterical.