Fear Of A Black(less) Planet

12 Mar

The title of the post is derived from the rap group, Public Enemy’s hit, Fear Of A Black Planet . The song speaks about the fear of black blood mixing with white blood and making it impure. I believe I carry a smug satisfaction as a white person who has always cared so much about forming relationships with black people, and so, no, I don’t fear a Black Planet. Right now what I am worried about is the importance of the struggle between the black-white relationship losing its significance, and I selfishly don’t want everything I’ve cared about not to matter anymore.

It’s not that I believe we now live in a post-racial society where race doesn’t matter just because we have our first black President. I’m afraid, just like war and poverty, racism and inequities between people with differing races and ethnicities will never completely go away. While there have been improvements and gains for black people in this country, there is still a long way to go to undo the centuries of imbalance in a system that has put white people in a place of privilege. And, sadly, there will always be ignorance and fear—the fear of someone different from one’s self, the fear of the unknown.

So, what am I worried about? For one, growing up in the civil rights era, instilled in me this sense, this desire, to stand up against the unfair treatment of people who were black. It was the polarizing thing of our time—to me anyway. I know we had the Vietnam War, but as a young person—black/white relations is what mattered deeply to me. But with the work of the civil rights movement over thirty-years old now, it is not as much on people’s minds, and is especially difficult for young people growing up today to grasp, and even care much about.

It’s not that young people don’t care about racism, it’s also that things have changed for them. I hear teenagers talk about how they get along with everyone, and race isn’t such a big deal anymore. On the one hand, I believe them, but I’ve also watched some documentaries and youtube clips that show young people still sticking primarily with kids that share the same racial and ethnic backgrounds as them. I see it with my own two daughters who both go to integrated schools. When they were younger they had more friends of varied backgrounds, but now, at ages 9 and 12, it seems most of their friends are white, at least the ones they spend time with outside of school.

Another factor that lessens the importance of black/white relations is that there is more of a diversity of races and ethnicities in our country. And, the numbers of other groups have grown—there are now more Latinos in this country than African-Americans. There are also many more individuals who are of more than one race, and as time goes on, and more people have interracial and other mixed relationships, the races will blend even more. All of this dilutes the spotlight on the struggles of African-Americans in this country, and, the highlight of the black/white relationship as a central matter of importance.

Diversity, the blending of races–this is a good thing, a cool thing. I am not a nationalistic xenophobe, but here is what I am worried about.

I worry that the drama of the civil rights era and the struggle of the black/white relationship is what has kept me interested in having bonds with the black community. I wonder if the role I designated for my soul, as someone who cares deeply about race relations between black and white people will not be necessary anymore if the struggle is gone?

What if the whole world moves on from the black/white issue, making it passe? Will I find out that I have simply been superficial and narcissistic? Like Warren Beatty said to Madonna in the movie, Truth or Dare, as Madonna sat being examined by her doctor, “You don’t want to do anything off camera,” I worry that if the world’s not watching anymore, I won’t care as much about my relationships with black people. Just like I don’t want to admit I used to be the gal that went for the chase in my relationships with boyfriends—enjoying the drama of going after them to get them to like me, and then getting bored when they were into me—am I going to be bored when I feel like race doesn’t matter so much?

Perhaps I shouldn’t worry at all. We’ll just be one big happy family—we’ll keep blending races and ethnicities.  And, while I might still have one eye looking longingly to the past of the significant black/white relationship, and my personal fight to stand up for racial injustice as it factored into my day-to-day life, I will make sure I have a foothold in the tomorrow of a glorious, mixed up nation.


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