Friday, November 16, 2012

Mariann Aalda: Liberal white people get it now


Today’s blog is a repost written by Mariann Aalda.  Her blog OY-VA (Occupy Your Vagina) is an extension of her work to advance awareness related to the sexuality of mature women.  I first met Aalda at the Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem, NC where her play 3 Blacque Chix was the talk of the week.  Since then, Aalda and Iona Morris (the daughter of Greg Morris of Mission Impossible) have rewritten the play and named it M.O.I.S.T, an acronym for the Multiple Orgasm Initiative for Sexual Transformation.  It’s a musical comedy celebration of women not too old to have a good time. I worked with Aalda and Morris at the last Black Film Festival in a workshop called Good Sex, Bad Sex & Safe Sex, and we have plans to collaborate more in the future.
Aalda portrayed DiDi Bannister on the long-running ABC soap opera Edge of Night, and had a regular role on the CBS sitcom The Royal Family, as the daughter of Redd Foxx and Della Reese, and the HBO series 1st & Ten, as the wife of O.J. Simpson's character. In 1999, Aalda appeared on NBC's Sunset Beach as the tragically disfigured Lena Hart. She has also appeared in several films including The Wiz and Class Act opposite Kid 'n Play.
She’s a close friend who has helped me process issues for my blog.  Today, I’m letting her tell it like it is.  Her blog is a must read!
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RACISM: Liberal White People Get it Now
Previously, they had thought that…
The Cosby Show signaled the end of it…the deification of Oprah signaled the end of it…Vanessa Williams chosen to be the first black Miss America signaled the end of it…Halle Berry winning an Academy Award signaled the end of it.  And -- even if not any of those things -- then the 2008 election of Barack Obama as President of the United States certainly meant the end of it.
NOT!!!
But after all the hyperbole and vitriol of the 2012 presidential campaign and the sour-grapes trash-talk of Obama’s re-election, black people don’t  have to try and explain it to them anymore.
No, we are not “being paranoid,” nor are we “too sensitive.”
But you get it now…to the point of an admission by MSNBC newscaster Chris Matthews that the hate directed at President Obama for no other reason than the color of his skin made him embarrassed to be a white person.
Despite his anguish, I’m relieved.
Because, as Dr. Phil would say, “You cannot change what you don’t acknowledge.”
And you can’t acknowledge what you’re not aware of.
But this last presidential election has smacked liberal, intellectual white people all up in their faces and upside their heads so hard that they can’t miss it. NOW they get it.
It’s not a dog-whistle anymore, it’s a freakin’ BULL HORN!
Racism is alive and well… and it lurks in the hearts of millions of their fellow white Americans.  
Like most of my black friends, my own multicultural coalition of friendships includes whites for whom I am their only black friend.  These friendships are warm and loving and I’ve never doubted their genuineness. They have never made me feel like a token.  I have, however, at times felt like “The Ambassador of Blackness to The Commonwealth of Caucasia.”
While these friends don’t think of me as “other,” I do feel they have sometimes thought of me as different from the “other.” I am college-educated, and they see me as approachable (in contrast to the-angry-black-woman civil service worker they see stereotyped in TV and film), industrious and a peer.
But with no malice and (I’m pretty certain) no forethought, here are a few odd comments that have been made to me over the years:
“If all blacks were like YOU, there wouldn’t be a problem.”
“You’re not really black, you’re black-ISH.”
“You’re not BLACK…you’re ‘spicy white’.”
“Read it (an audition scene) again, and this time don’t be so articulate.”
“Let’s face it, Mariann, nobody’s going to hire you to play the friend of the white girl…you ARE the white girl.”
“The reason she hates you is because she’s PWT and you’re more of what a white woman is SUPPOSED to be than she’ll ever be.”
(Sigh)
I owe my articulation to Catholic School…particularly Sister Thomas Francis.
I owe my college education to parents whose economic hardships forced them to drop out of high school but who made graduating from college mandatory for my sister and me and took out a second and third mortgage on their home to make it possible.
In particular, I owe my industriousness to my dad who -- on the eve of my very first day of school – rallied me with: “Because you’re a little colored girl, you’re going to have to work ten times as hard as little white girls to accomplish the same things.  But you’re a SMART little colored girl and you’re MY daughter and I know you can do it.”
And even though Daddy was a Republican, he continued to believe in me and loved me nonetheless after I declared myself a Democrat like Momma. 
My affability is a gift of Nature.  I am simply genetically wired to be optimistic and good-natured.
I am not exceptional. I am the norm.
And my good nature is wearing thin.
I’m getting tired of all the ego and the rage and the hypocrisy and the snarkiness and that blustery pot of a Limbaugh constantly calling the kettle black and being rewarded for it with a big, fat paycheck.
That’s making me reallllllly CRANKY!
But it’s racism that needs to take a nap.
Note to white friends: Now that you’re awake, how about taking a bigger role in changing that baby and finally putting it to bed?
Note to open-minded white people who just don’t happen to have any non-white friends: Make one.
Note to closed-minded white people who don’t have any non-white friends and don’t want any:  Make one.
Or risk drifting out to see all alone on a melting ice-flow and perishing at your own risk.  Because ready or not, like it or not, believe it or not…the climate IS changing.
Catch the wave.

4 comments:

  1. Who knew? I never realized that my fellow white liberals weren't aware that racism still existed. Imagine, all the progressive milestones mentioned in the essay, actually didn't represent progress at all, they were just smokescreens so we could feel comfortable with ourselves. Gosh, even those of us who actually have some black friends (not acquaintances), didn't realize that the majority of the country was still controlled by the Klan.

    Thanks be to Obama! Clearly every vote against him was racist inspired. We now know that almost 50% of the citizenry is racist. Us liberals have a lot of work to do!

    If Ms. Aalda reveres Chris Matthews as the spokesman for white people, should we now acknowledge Louis Farrakhan as spokesman for black people? Clearly there are no gradations of opinion on racism.

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    1. Although probably not your intent, your comments go a long way in exemplifying my point.

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    2. Ms. Aalda, please be specific. Perhaps my message was lost in my sarcasm.

      Your main point seemed to be that despite public events indicating some progress in racial attitudes, the recent election proved that racism is alive and well in the US. Your second point seemed to be that whites, even liberal ones, were unaware of that fact, and that even they might also harbor some racist feelings, although muted. Your third point seemed to ask whites to take a bigger role in eliminating racism.

      I agree with you that racism is alive in our country (as well as most others). I don't agree that whites, liberal or conservative, are unaware of that racism or are doing nothing to eliminate it. And we didn't need an election involving a mixed race president to confirm it. Nor did we think that the other racial milestones you mentioned signaled the end of racism. They do represent symbolic progress, however, and should not be denigrated. Why you make the rhetorical jump to indicate these events are interpreted by whites as "ending racism" is demeaning to us all.

      And, yes, I am sure that some of your friends think of you as "safe" and "not like the others." It's human nature to bond easier with those who are like us (education, affability, money, etc., not just skin color). In the Durham community we have many wealthy and socially prominent blacks that, in private, also don't easily bond with "the others," whose only similar trait is the color of their skin. That doesn't mean they are racist, just human.

      Racism comes into play when we attribute the negative attributes of some bad actors to an entire group of people And that occurs on a regular basis, whether we're talking about race baiters like Farrakhan or Limbaugh. Your own essay at first acknowledges white friends that seemingly make an effort, but then goes on to point at the inadequacy of even those relationships and later lumps us all with Limbaugh.

      Lastly, there's the subject of white privilege that you obliquely touched on. It's true, whites don't have to do anything to help people of color. And most don't, even those who are well meaning. It takes effort and a thick skin. Those of us who do delve into these waters, just like you, also feel like we're representing the state of Caucasia. But we both have to continue the effort to put human faces on what otherwise might get lost in assumptions about group characteristics might be. Our efforts might merely be tiny steps, but they have a cumulative effect.

      I do agree that whites should attempt more social contact with blacks, even honest friendship. And, the reverse is also true. I doubt that either blacks or whites will be especially quick to invite a person of the opposite race that doesn't have at least some common characteristics with them, however.

      In past blog posts, Carl has talked extensively about how difficult it seems to be for blacks and whites to have honest communication with each other. Our exhanges seem to reinforce that fact.

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  2. Thanks, Carl! Btw, does all the talk about secession mean I'll need a passport the next time I visit North Carolina? Rumor has it that NC is going to become a territory of India and that Texas is going to be bought outright by China. Any truth to that? LOL

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