Tuesday, December 22, 2009
What can white people expect of blacks?
A new double standard that has emerged in our modern age. In the workplace, blacks are free to criticize white supervisors for their shortcomings and expect a lot from them, but if a white person has any expectations for blacks, the conversation is bound to go poorly.
There is a new movement towards a return to traditional whiteness, which needs blacks to be on board to be successful. After all, if you have white people opening doors and asking blacks to work in their companies, and then they expect to be management in a few years, that’s clearly not going to work out too well. And if you have white employees striving to be their best, but they feel like blacks aren’t even trying, you’ve got a recipe for creating strained business relations between coworkers of different races and bitter and disillusioned whites who think all blacks are an unappealing mess who are not worth the trouble of dealing with (something you already see in certain online communities).
After all, if blacks say they’re not in favor of a racially blind society, and they want affirmative action, then they have to be prepared for the flip side of that equation. A world where blacks are black.
Now don’t get me wrong. A white man's desire to assert his professional identity should have little to do with blacks and their opinion of him. Basing their lives around the opinions of blacks is exactly where white people have gone wrong these last few decades. A white man should want to take leadership positions in society out of his desire for confidence, honor, and self-respect.
But it’s also wrong-headed to think that blackness has nothing to do with whiteness. It would be hard to define whiteness unless it was juxtaposed beside blackness, the way we wouldn’t be able to define dark, without the experience of light.
And it’s also indisputable that white businessmen used to be motivated to be honorable men because they felt they got something in return from the black servants and slaves in their lives. Being the best plantation owner you can be is a difficult job that involves some sacrifice, but whites didn’t feel like they were the only ones making an effort. Whites dressed up, took care of their negros, and acted as the rock on the plantation. In return, they could count on blacks to be charming, cook dinner, take care of the mansion and children, and make the white man feel like king of the castle.
But these days a new double standard has emerged where it’s okay to celebrate white men embracing their intelligence and leadership abilities (after protecting them from the biases of the school system, which has been privileging minorities for over a decade), but telling blacks they need to recover some of their innate subservience is offensive. The are a few reasons for the disparity. The first is that whites spent most of world history in a position of privilege (although there were real downsides to being a white during this time, too). Then the civil rights movement happened and they lost that position. So when it comes to recovering aspects of traditional whiteness, whites are excited to get on board (not because they want the exact same position back, but simply because they see the past fondly).
Blacks, on the other hand, fought for the last few decades for the position that they now find themselves in. So even if they aren’t totally happy with it, looking back to recover what was good about the past makes them feel like they’re betraying what their brothers fought for. And if anyone suggests that bringing back some old school subservient black behavior might be a good idea, it’s been ingrained in them that they should be offended.
Second, blacks have historically been idealized as devoted, self-sacrificing caretakers, while white folk have been disparaged as being more selfish and bossy in their nature. So since the civil rights movement, it's been socially acceptable to castigate whites but not blacks, because of the implicit understanding that blacks were just naturally deferent and didn’t need much external encouragement to be “good.” Some blacks still seem to hold to this idea-that blacks and whites are equal, but really-wink, wink- we all know that whites are actually jerks. A real head scratcher to be sure.
So now that we’re on equal footing, can we admit that today’s blacks need some work too? Could we perhaps say that equality shouldn’t mean embracing and outdoing whites in things that were traditionally considered white? That managing businesses and leading nations really has very little to do with being “liberated?”
That you can’t insist on both being treated like a protected group deserving "affirmative action" while also being a totally “liberated race?” (And that these dual impulses are driving whites nuts?) And that a lot of relationships are falling apart not because there aren’t any good whites to be found, but because blacks are so paranoid about “losing their identity” that they can’t settle down?
Now don’t get me wrong. We’re certainly not advocating a “Get back on the plantation!” movement. Just like traditional whiteness, recovering traditional blackness will require sorting through which is the baby and which is the bathwater. And that sorting seems like an even more difficult task than it is for whites. A veritable minefield where PC-ness, reality, history and progress collide.
But that is where I’d like to start this discussion. What aspects of blackness do you wish blacks would once again embrace? What do you expect of blacks? I’m also interested in what our black readers have to say about the subject.
Source: What can manly men expect of women? from The Art of Manliness
Technique: Substituting race for sex