The post-racial lie

Solo is the nickname of Solange Knowles, who happens to be one of my favorite famous people. Not because I am an ultra-fan, but because there is something about her fro wearing, print donning and overall swag that makes me excited. She seems at ease with herself in a way that most of today’s artists are not (who knows, maybe it’s a Knowles thing).

I’ve gained even more respect for Solo because of her comments about society at large. On Sept. 24, the soulful songstress took to her twitter and said this: ‘Liiiiike……Lets all dress up, and “play black” today because that shit is more fun than six flags!!! “Whhheeeeeeee”’

After doing some internet sleuthing (more like twitter-feed stalking), many people seem to think that Solo’s tweet is simply about Miley Cyrus’ twerking habits, but in reality the tweet is about so much more than the “Hill Billy that can twerk.”

We live in society that claims to be post everything. Post-modern, post-sexism, post-industrial, post-racial – the list is endless. We are post everything and infinitely progressive. Progressive. It’s a word that rolls of the tongue for us Portlanders.

Numerous magazine articles and PDX transplants have dubbed our rainy oasis as “progressive.” The word is the gold star for every major city because it solidifies its awesomeness. To be progressive is to be cool, hip, with it, up to date and most importantly of all, post all the “isms” that once plagued our society. However, the earth-shattering truth is that the words post and progressive have cast a spell over us.

Our progressive mindset has forced us to believe that sexism, classism and racism have disappeared. But in truth the complexity of social relations and circumstances have made the “isms” much harder to clearly identify; harder to tangibly recognize and grasp.

Our darkest hours have appeared time and time again. Possibly one of the most well-known and recent examples is the Trayvon Martin case. Comments from the media, which is dominated by white males hailing from the upper echelon of society like Bill O’Reilly, commented on Martin’s death in horrendous ways. To paraphrase O’Reilly, Martin’s death was based on his choice of clothing – his “gangster” attire to be exact.

Various media outlets released images of Martin posing in “intimidating and gangster” fashions. His twitter posts written in slang and even photos of him wearing a gold grill became the subject of criticism and even justification for his death. These images served as tools to justify profiling men of color. In the eyes of many, these images perpetuated the idea that Martin was the threat, even though he was only armed with an Arizona ice tea and skittles.

The images and the dialogue that accompanied them attempted to justify Martin’s death, because in the end he would become just another black problem that would have to be taken care of by the tax money of law abiding citizens.

The Miley Cyrus conundrum has been all over the news. Most people simply reflect on the former Disney tween-queen’s transition into an image of corruption. “Oh how the young woman has fell off the deep end and tarnished her squeaky clean Disney image!” they squawk. Numerous articles have talked about the freedom young women should have to express her sexuality. These are key topics, but what about the appropriation of Black culture?

First off, one should know that Black culture is really a term that should be used with thoughtfulness and care. There is more than one Black experience. Now that we have cleared that up, it is also important to state that this analysis isn’t about foam-finger dirty dancing or even Miley Cyrus. It’s about the “isms”. The “isms” create positions of power.

Thus, when it comes racism, white people are holding the privilege. Those not within the dominant group are marginalized and pushed aside. This happened in the Trayvon Martin case and also in the infamous Cyrus performance at the Video Music Awards.

As she moved about the stage slapping the butts of faceless, nameless black women, Cyrus was able to put on invisible black face without having to deal with the same oppression that black women and other women of color have to deal with on a daily basis. She shakes her butt and is simply a misled teen. It’s cool of Cyrus to be “ratchet”.  When a black woman dons the “ratchet” title, she is “ghetto” and not worth a second glance.

It is acceptable to romanticize the lives of the marginalized in the dominant culture. But when the dominant culture is faced with the reality of the lives of the marginalized, like our country was during the Trayvon Martin case, those in the highest positions of privilege continue to look the other way.