It is a painful truth that black Americans are ceaselessly reduced to a monotonous mass. Individuals are paraded as representative of the whole, a phenomenon with no shortage of Internet support.
In the midst of racial debate, a popular ploy amongst desperate debaters is to scour the Internet high and low for the black speaker with the opinion that is just as ridiculous and deranged as their own. This tactic is employed on white America’s behalf to silence and shut down pain and protest.
Following the maelstrom of compliment and criticism provoked by Beyoncé’s recent Super Bowl performance, the critical crowd cheered with the self-serving satisfaction at successfully seeking the black person who “called out” one of his own, when this video surfaced. The speaker was praised for his logic and for “putting her in her place.” Toting the tired, overused charge of “double standard,” while forcefully spitting towards the camera about how “pissed” the black community would be had the (unfathomable) reverse of Beyoncé’s performance occurred, the speaker’s unhinged misinterpretation of the performance itself and the reality of race relations in America doesn’t make a particularly sound or compelling argument. The video accompanies a feed that is generally self-righteous and critical, reducing black claims of racism to hypocritical or inordinate complaints. With the illogical absurdity of someone desperately drawing forced parallels between blacks and whites, he indolently grapples for undue parallels and comparisons, attempting to summarize what’s “not fair,” a complicated assessment when addressing two groups with such drastically differing societal standings. This favorite and faulty tactic reserved for those unwilling or incapable of interpreting and analyzing nuances blatantly ignores very present and continued complexities.
Succeeding last summer’s Confederate controversy concerning the flag’s removal from the South Carolina state capitol, countless Confederate enthusiasts took this same route of attack in an attempt to silence those who pointed out the flag’s tenacious racial connotations and offenses, with these hostile rebuttals being directed at agonized African Americans in particular. Facebook feeds fumbled to produce evidence that proved the validity of their stubborn outdated notions and were elated when able to produce proof of the flag’s blameless purity. A single image found via Google search of an unknown black man donning a Confederate flag tee shirt could serve as sufficient scholarly confirmation and was brandished in order to banish any statement that pointed out the flag’s painful racial history. In spite of the apparel and allegiances of a few however, adoration of the Confederacy and its ideals is undoubtedly and understandably the unpopular opinion within the black community.
Last month, this same crowd rejoiced when Stacey Dash of deflated Clueless fame came forth proclaiming that boycotting the Oscars in response to its diversity issue was itself racist. She cited BET (a network that ironically buoyed her lackluster career) as its equal evil, further highlighting her cluelessness. During the interview that made her preachy denunciation of BET and its ilk the talk of the Internet that week, she claimed that, “if it were the other way around we would be up in arms; it’s a double standard,” once again portraying African Americans as eager to engage in unfair and unwarranted uproar at every opportunity.
Responses such as these in which a black spokesperson is used to patronizingly reprimand the rest of the black community for taking offense garner thousands of shares, many from white Americans who want to silence valid pains. These well behaved specimens are peddled as proof of the black community’s undue unruliness and upset and serve to silence like a scolding school teacher. This ploy promotes the erroneous notion that black Americans are simply whining, hypocritical, or worse–are themselves racist towards white people. This is not an unfamiliar practice, as is evidenced by the familiar and oft misplaced, “what would Martin Luther King say?” rebuke used to tame and shame rightfully disillusioned African Americans when their behavior veers from ideals of the perfect, docile black model citizen. It supports the incorrect idea that when expressing displeasure with the faulty race relations in America, black people are simply wallowing in a false sense of victimhood, that they are “up in arms” for no reason. This school of thought serves to suppress and silence. It accompanies the pathetic and parochial platitude, “we’re all human,” and the more current “all lives matter.” While true and noble enough, these sentiments dangerously detract from addressing very real racial issues. Those who claim the insular stance that race has no significance are those privileged enough or dense enough not to notice.
This tactic employs other members of the black community against the rest in an attempt to silence. With smug satisfaction, white Americans often use this evidence to invalidate the arguments of impassioned and embittered black Americans. Pseudo-enlightened scholars proudly advertise their embracement of a black person’s point of view. Using a black model to say what they want to hear supports their racist ideals while simultaneously asserting that they cannot possibly be racist. Conservative media is notorious for toting their token black spokesperson. These Uncle Toms of truth are not representative of black America, and they are certainly not representative of its greater thinkers. They are only benefitting the bigot. These self-detrimental or decontextualized opinions of a few shouldn’t mean case closed for the many who are speaking and working towards betterment. They tell the black community that they have no right to be angered or aggrieved.