Can Our Children Afford To Be “New Black”?
With all the debate on whether Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ new Harlem charter school is really good for the community it will serve, it made us at Mommynoire think about the celebrity “New Black” comments that were popular last year. The article below is all about post-racialism, our community and the term the “New Black.” Let us know what you think in the comments!
By Dara MAthis
The recent barrage of celebrity “New Black” comments reminds me of the premiere episode of hit ABC sitcom Black-ish. Viewers were introduced to the premise of the show: an affluent Black couple worries their children will miss the essentials of Blackness in America growing up in a white neighborhood. The underlying theme of Black-ish presents a valid question for Black parents. Should parents take steps to educate children on the effects of racism to avoid a (“New Black”) culture shock?
If Black people thought they had finally proven that racism is alive and well, certain Black celebrities seem determined to make post-racialism the New Black. The term “New Black” comes from producer Pharrell’s comments last year to Mother Oprah:
“The New Black doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The New Black dreams and realizes that it’s not pigmentation: it’s a mentality and it’s either going to work for you or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re going to be on.
Since Pharrell came out as New Black in 2014, he’s been joined by rapper Common, actress Raven-Symoné, actor Isaiah Washington, and everyone’s favorite CNN broadcast journalist, Don Lemon. These public figures all have two elements in common: They are Black and very affluent. As such, they are the minority in Black American culture, seeing Black life through rosy Prada shades.
The rest of us cannot afford those shades, just as we cannot afford to be “New Black.”
Teaching our children to be New Black may have adverse results. Lawrence Otis Graham, a Black Princeton University alumnus, decided to dress his children as respectably as possible, teaching the teens the onus for avoiding discrimination was on them. To his chagrin, his son was still met with racial epithets in 2014 while on a cozy New England college campus.
Graham’s affluence could not shield his son from the reality of American racism.
Should we then shield our children from believing being “New Black” will save them? The answer is an uneasy yes.
Yet, I am hesitant to fill our children with the same cynicism we often possess when it comes to race relations. Common’s advice to “extend a hand of love” might be a little extreme. However, a defeatist attitude is also the opposite of the spirit of hope that lifted the Civil Rights Movement from dream to reality.
We need our young people to see racism, white supremacy, and discrimination for what they truly are in order for #BlackLivesMatter to be sustainable. And we also need them to believe it is still possible to eradicate racism—by holding racists accountable.
Let me get to the heart of the matter. “New Black” is American exceptionalism (“I made it, so you can”) misapplied broadly to the Black American experience. What is hurtful and dangerous about “New Black” is not the divergence from conventional African-American views on racism. We are not threatened by differing opinions. Rather it’s the idea that even after Fannie Lou Hamer and Medgar Evers and Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, Black people still bear the burden to spearhead racial healing.
I would not have my children shoulder the weight of racial reconciliation when they are still just as likely to be killed for the color of their skin. It is adding insult to injury.
If our children can learn anything from the “New Black” celebrities, it’s this: affluence is an excellent tool for opening doors and windows, for showing that Blackness is not a limiting factor to success. They should not shrink from affluence for fear of losing touch culturally. Rather, it is white supremacy that seeks to make Black people at fault for their own oppression.
And in America, there is absolutely nothing “new” about that at all.