Maurice Broaddus is the author of the novel series, The Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot).Â His dark fiction has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and web sites, most recently including Dark Dreams II & III, Apex Magazine, Black Static, and Weird Tales Magazine.Â He is the co-editor of the Dark Faith anthology (Apex Books).Â Â Read his blog where he often opines on issues of race, religion, writing, and pop culture and learn more about him at www.MauriceBroaddus.com.
I thought this week I’d go for something a little less controversial. Â A little while ago, I let Chesya Burke direct me to RaceFail on teh Interwebz.Â Thereâ€™s plenty enough out there without me having to seek it out.Â Yet, when she calls in that â€œI ainâ€™t playing.Â Iâ€™m about to choke somebodyâ€ voice, I have to check it out.Â Let this be a lesson to you interwebz:Â quit winding her up, cause she winds me up, and I got deadlines.
The cause of the umbrage was the fact that the BET Awards will be a royal affair: Prince is getting a lifetime achievement honor.Â The 51-year-old joins the likes of James Brown, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and Al Green in being honored by the BET Awards, which will celebrate its 10th year in Los Angeles on June 27.
The thread in question involved this old chestnut:Â â€œOne would think that since we’ve come so far as to have a black president we wouldn’t need award programs where the winners have to be of a particular ethnicity. Imagine the hate and protest that would come if there was a White Entertainment Television channel and awards ceremony, or a White Miss America Pageant. Are these ethnic-centered events still needed? Are they racist? What are your thoughts?â€
Now, my first thought was that this would mark the first time Iâ€™ve wanted to tune into BET since A.J. and Free were the hosts of 106th and Park.
Now to parse the fail.Â Iâ€™m not going to cast this person as racist.Â Itâ€™s a question that on the surface is a gut reaction to what one might see as unfair.Â Iâ€™ll accept that premise at its word.Â However, as Iâ€™ve said before, just because folks are your friends doesnâ€™t mean that they arenâ€™t capable of saying and doing ignorant things.
Fail #1:Â I was right there in the elation of electing President Obama, believing that Iâ€™d never see that day in my lifetime.Â Of course, the fact that so many still had that sentiment ought to put this whole conversation in check, but Iâ€™ll continue anyway.Â I know the temptation is to believe that now that we have a black president, the sins of racism have now been erased and we can move forward.Â I guess this ignores the entirety of history as I double check to see where someone breaks the color barrier, say Jackie Robinson, all of the racism just goes away.Â Just like with Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith coaching in the Super Bowl, the first black head coaches to do so. It doesnâ€™t, and the backwash of latent racism his election has churned up should be evidence that we havenâ€™t come as far and arenâ€™t as sophisticated as weâ€™d like to believe ourselves to be.Â Plus, I donâ€™t look to politics and politicians to cure what is a heart issue.
Fail #2:Â The old â€œWhite Entertainment Televisionâ€, â€œWhite Miss America Pageantâ€, and because Iâ€™m in a generous mood, Iâ€™ll toss in one for free, â€œWhite Expoâ€ argument.Â Now, Iâ€™ll spare you my standard quips (â€œWET?Â Yeah, weâ€™ve always just called it ABC, CBS, or NBC.â€ â€œWhite Miss America Pageant?Â It was only recently the pageant even realized there were beautiful women of color in this country to begin with.â€Â â€œWhite Expo?Â Really, cause we let you have NASCAR.â€).Â Just like you can spare me conveniently overlooking the fact that BET, Black Miss America Pageants, and Black Expos (and Iâ€™ll throw in Historically Black Colleges since it wonâ€™t be but 30 seconds before someone throws in their tale of woe about not getting a scholarship because they arenâ€™t black) wouldnâ€™t have been necessary in the first place if black people hadnâ€™t been shut out of institutions.
Now, horror has had its own legacy of RaceFail, so I turn to it to answer the question â€œWhat would the protest look like?â€Â It would look something like when Brandon Massey was doing the anthology series, Dark Dreams.Â All of a sudden, many white â€œrecognized racism when they saw it.â€Â They thumped their chests loudly at this â€œbrand of segregationâ€ and â€œaffirmative action writingâ€ â€¦ when weâ€™re not even a year out of yet another â€œbest ofâ€ anthology series having a table of contents featuring only white men.Â So again, itâ€™d be nice to declare us in a post-racial era, but letâ€™s actually live like weâ€™re in one first before we declare us there.
Fail #3:Â Privilege and the â€œneed for such thingsâ€.Â Being a majority in a society, holding the bulk of the power, with the weight of history and social institution behind you, itâ€™s easy to see any inroad/erosion of that as unfair.Â In your quest for colorblindness, you donâ€™t realize how much that negates people of color.Â As I said at the conclusion of my blog on white privilege (and, yeah, for the sake of continued conversation, I no longer refer to â€œwhite privilegeâ€ as â€œcrackernomicsâ€):Â I know, I know, you gentle white souls, this means you rage against the gods of political correctness as your slice of the American Dream pie continues to get cut into. The conversations are tough, exposing your possible denial, defensiveness, guilt, and shame of benefiting from systemic injustice. Be strong white people.
As for the need for such things, I look to institutions such as the â€œblack churchâ€.Â Â It was a miracle that it came about in the first place and it still serves a vital function in the black community.Â Would I like to see a post-racial church?Â Absolutely.Â Just as I recognize that it will take continued serious work and conversations to make it happen.Â Until then, you canâ€™t keep complaining that all the black kids sit with each other in the cafeteria.Â Sometimes, we just need to.
Asking those questions isnâ€™t racist.Â Itâ€™s ignorance and thereâ€™s nothing wrong with ignorance as long as weâ€™re willing to listen and learn.Â I want to hold hands and sing â€œKumbayaâ€ as much as the next person, but we arenâ€™t there yet.Â Hopefully we can keep having conversations until we get to this post-racial Nirvana we all are so ready to skip ahead to.