“One of the ways that I think that the civil rights movement . . . weakened itself was by enforcing a single way of being black — being authentically black,” Obama said.
“And, as a consequence, there were a whole bunch of young black people — and I fell prey to this for a time when I was a teenager — who thought that if you were really ‘down’ you had to be a certain way. And oftentimes that was anti-something. You defined yourself by being against things as opposed to what you were for. And I think now young people realize, you know what, being African American can mean a whole range of things. There’s a whole bunch of possibilities out there for how you want to live your life, what values you want to express, who you choose to interact with.”
— A quote from President Obama from Eugene Robinson’s column (via Richard Prince’s Journalisms)
I once wrote a column called “The Sell-Out” where I used the metaphor of slave liberator Harriet Tubman’s gun being pointed at anyone who dared to get off the trail of the Underground Railroad and risk everyone’s lives and freedom in their cowardice. I wrote that while maintaining a semblance of unity in Black America is no longer a life or death proposition, we still have Harriet’s gun pointed at one another, prepared the shoot the minute someone is perceived to get out of line. That we are pressured to walk a particular route as African Americans and never waver from it.
This is a self-imposed, community-imposed way that is largely superficial now and often does more harm than good. The biggest limitations come in the forms of what are considering things black people can and can’t do which often keep people from advancing or being more well-rounded or just being themselves.
More after the jump.