Black, White, Man, Or Woman?

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All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men is a phrase you often hear by womanists (Black feminists) to help explain why many Black women may have felt left out by both the civil rights movement and the feminist movement. Basically, Black men and White women took priority in those respective movements, practically leaving Black women sociopolitically invisible.

That quote has always resonated with me for another reason, though. It perfectly encapsulates how a person could be physically Black or White or a Man or a Woman, but considered by most to be something else politically. Basically, while they’ll always maintain their physical attributes, they’ll be treated and regarded as something else. For instance, from a physical perspective, Clarence Thomas is undeniably and unambiguously Black. But, because of his political history, his conservatism, his treatment of Anita Hill, and his White wife, he’s considered by many to be “White.”

I thought of this yesterday while trying to grasp the way some people felt about Chris Dorner, and how he’s a perfect example of how arbitrary these definitions tend to be.

Here was a man who, like Thomas, was undeniably Black. I see a Chris Dorner doppleganger every week. He sells oils and bootleg pornos outside of my barbershop. Joining the police force, though, meant—for many of us—that he’d no longer be a Black man, but Blue. And, if you’re Blue, you’re actually White.

But, when he got fired and retaliated against the (White) establishment, he became Black again.

Anyway, Thomas and Dormer are just two prominent examples of this phenomenon  Here’s a few more.

(Note, no categories are named for Latinos, Asians, and Indians because, well, it’s America and only Black and White matter)

Black man: Black

Black woman: Black

Black man with White wife: White

Black woman with White husband: Still Black to everyone but Black men

White man with Black wife: Kinda Black, actually

White man with White Wife but very Black-friendly politics and opinions: First Black president

White woman with Black husband: White woman!

Single White woman with very Black-friendly politics and opinions: Still White woman

White woman genuinely down for the cause: Good try, but always and forever a White woman

White woman who’s not even technically a White woman: I see your White ass. You can’t hide

Black male politician: Hmm. Depends.

Liberal Black male politician: Black

Liberal Black male politician with White wife: Still Black, but barely

Conservative Black male politician: Is he Colin Powell? No. White, then.

Gay Black man: Woman

Gay White man: White

Bisexual Black man: Woman

Straight Black man who did one (slightly) homosexual act 15 years ago: WOMAN! Stop playin!

Black lesbian: Is she cute? Kinda, but not really. Man

White lesbian: I have no clue

Poor White people: Where are they from? Actually, nevermind. That doesn’t matter. Still White

Poor Black people: Blacker than the back of Forest Whitaker’s neck

Poor Black woman: Black Man

Wealthy Black people: Need more info

Wealthy Black people from Atlanta or the DMV: Black

Wealthy Black people from anywhere else: Still Black, but barely

Black male cop: White Man

Black female cop: White Man

Black male or Black female cop on The Wire: Well, although those were completely fictional characters that didn’t actually exist and not real people, they were nuanced portrayals of real people. Therefore, while all Black cops in real life are White devils, Black male or Black female cop on The Wire: Black man and Black woman

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

The Scariest Thing About Chris Dorner? Our (Black People’s) Reaction To Him

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Between her hundreds of pairs of shoes, closets full of clothes, and dressers full of jewelry, to call my mom a fashionista would be an understatement. I’ve teased her about this before—she’s like one White House Black Market bangle away from full-blown Hoarder—but it’s one of the things about her I’ve always appreciated. It’s kinda cool having a mom who’s fly.

Although her illness has made it difficult for her to put the same effort into her appearance, she still relishes the rare opportunities she has to get dressed up. Now, these opportunities usually occur when she’s going to the doctor’s office.

She had one of these opportunities last week, and while speaking to her over the weekend about how her tests went, she brought up something that bothered her a little.

“One of the nurses said something about how dressed up I always am when I come in.”

“Oh? Well you do always look nice. What’s the problem?”

“I don’t know. It just rubbed me the wrong way. Sometimes, when White women make those types of statements, they say it with a tone where it feels like they’re just surprised that a Black woman would have nice clothes.”

That the nurse’s statement had a racial undertone is possible. But, as I joked with her, it’s more than likely that my mom was just experiencing a bout of Nigga Neurosis-–my definition for the feeling many of us have when something out of the ordinary (good or bad) happens to us, and we’re not sure whether it only happened because we’re Black.

This (the “Nigga Neurosis”) is one of the more unfortunate byproducts of a lifetime of dealing with America’s neurotic relationship with race. It’s something so ingrained in many of us that we often don’t realize when we’re doing it, and the perpetual mental gymnastics involved in distinguishing between real race-related behavior and perceived can f*ck with a person’s sense of reality.

I was reminded of this yesterday while following the Chris Dorner news and some of our (Black people’s) reactions to it. Not so much the advanced form of Nigga Neurosis displayed by those actually rooting for him, but how messed up things have to be for this to even be possible.

This and other situations like it manages to be both an indictment on America and us at the same time, proving that our experience with race and (real or perceived) racial injustice in this country has left some of us so cynical, so antagonistic, so angry at anything having to to with the “establishment”—police, the government, politics, rich people, etc—that we’ll support any type of comeuppance, regardless of how much evil had to happen for it to occur. This is f*cking scary.

And yes, if the things he’s been accused of are true—and I have no reason to believe that they’re not—Chris Dorner is an evil man. He’s not a hero and he won’t be a martyr. He’s not even a Django. He’s a murderer who killed people in cold blood, a man who might have had a real opportunity to expose the LAPD’s corruption, but instead chose to act on his own selfish need for some type of retribution. At best he’s a movie-of-the-week, a Dateline special, a new Wiki page, a line in a Jadakiss verse. He’s no different than Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, and all the other men who targeted and killed innocent people to avenge some “injustice,” and I will shed no tears when he’s captured and/or killed.

But who Dorner is and what he may have done doesn’t matter. At least to those of us who are rooting for him, it doesn’t. As along as he is Black and getting back at something “White,” it’s a cause worth supporting, regardless of any insignificant collateral damage —like, you know, the murder of a man who could have very easily been your brother, cousin, or boyfriend.

Should America take the blame for this? For making some of us so filled with antipathy and antagonism that it has completely skewed both our sense of right and wrong and our perception of reality? Or, are we just using the nigga neurosis as an convenient excuse to “get back,” to finally unleash our inner Dorners or live vicariously through him as he kills all the White people he can before getting caught?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. But, I do know that while reading some of the pro-Dormer tweets, comments, and Facebook statuses yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of the first thing Sgt. Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) asks Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) in The Departed.

“So…how f*cked up are you?”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)