Sunday, March 18, 2007

WHY I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE and other essays on Color Celebration

March 18, 2007 - Sunday

WHY I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE and other essays on Color Celebration

I love Black people. I love them. I mean I love all people, I am at heart a humanitarian, but for some reason, perhaps many reasons, I have always loved black people as my own people.

I guess saying that makes people uncomfortable, and with the history between blacks and whites I understand. Neither white or black people are comfortable with their history or current situation, and being together often brings out that discomfort. Both sides are suspicious of the other's motives. Both sides fear the other's anger. So mostly they avoid each other, and we self segregate.

Which sucks for me, because I love black people. I love their music, their bold fashion, their strength in the face of prejudice, the beautiful range of colors their skin can be, their sense of humor, the passion I find again and again in strong black men and women to make their lives remarkable. Black is beautiful, brave, stylish and strong, and I love to be around life's beauty. But I live on the north side of Chicago and my neighbors are Irish families and lesbian couples. Ah the curious mixes created by gentrification. None of my neighbors are black, and doing stand up on the north side of town I got bored of the GAP mentality of your average middle class white kid. I don't care to listen to the same tired jokes about homeless people and living on ramen noodles. And so when my friend John offered me to come out and do stand up in Bellwood, I was excited to get in front of a diverse audience, and to talk about the things that mean something to me.

See I found out about slavery in second grade. Black history was just getting around to being included in the curriculum after the founding of Black History Month in 1976, a few years earlier. I remember reading stories and letters of the horrors of the violence and inhumanity of the slave holders. I was devastated for a week, and never felt the same about man kind. It's funny but of lot of my white friends my age say the same thing, that the first time they learned about slavery it traumatized them. I don't know if they tell black people that, I get the impression sometimes that the myth is that all white people are tolerant of the concept of slavery, because it benefited them. I understand that the legacy of slavery has created an environment in our society that is easier on me cause I have white skin, it's easier on all white people. Our society is sadly racist. But I have always felt not benefit from slavery, but profound loss. Loss in our dignity as a country, loss of fellow human brothers and sisters, loss of the dream of America, a melting pot of cultures and peoples living in equality and piece.

As a girl I threw myself into learning about abolition, civil rights and Black History. I was deeply inspired by Harriet Tubman, and still to this day feel that what she did touched me somehow. When I learned about how white women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were foundational in forming the abolitionist movement, with no power of their own, no vote, no right to property and in fact not even protected against domestic violence, as it was acceptable to beat your wife "within reason" (not to death) in those days. I felt a sense of hope when I learned this. I could now see that other people of those times felt as I did, repulsed, and took brave action to support their convictions.

It hard not to notice that the prevailing attitude of white folks is guilt, the idea being that all us white folks descended from slave owners. Some of us did, to be true. Some of us however also came from those women and men who fought the political battles against slavery, and some came from those who housed travelers on the Underground Railroad, and some came from poor Scotsmen who were worked like slaves, paid little or no wages, working to pay off their cost of passage, many to their very deaths. I don't know my geneology, but I like to imagine my great, great, great, great grandmother hiding Harriet and one of her groups, bringing them bread and soup and worrying about them as they set off. Or writing letters and speeches to deliver to the abolitionist meeting or straight to the governor if necessary. It is what I would have done.

I guess as such, I don't feel white guilt as much as I feel human fury. Fury that the greed and sadism and pure evil of people has left our nation with this great and perhaps unhealable wound. And what's worse, the abolition meetings aren't the same anymore. We live in the modern delusion that we are all equal, because the Declaration tells us so, but just one look with our eyes makes it obvious that we are not treated equal in the world. Blacks, Latinos, just about all races not white, and of course women, are considered underdogs. And are given less power and money and liberty. Heck, you can still be white and if you are gay or marry outside your race or be poor and you will also be stripped of your social power. And every year it gets worse. A rich white elite pushes everyone one else down.

Thankfully, many of the "minority" groups (women are actually a majority of the population, the "majority minority" as I call it) have been working towards civil rights for their people. I can't help but think there would be strength in numbers, and I can't help but notice how the rich elite try to keep us apart. Turning poor whites against blacks and with the war on terror and illegal immigration, turning poor whites against Mexicans, and Muslims and just about anyone who is different.

Not that a lot of these crazy rednecks are that difficult to convince. Hatred and bigotry is sadly often the status quo in rural white America. I was born trailer trash myself. I've seen first hand how hateful and ignorant white folks can be. I grew up with two Native American aunts, one Navajo, one Hualipai, both adopted into the family at birth, long before I came along, and they were just my normal old aunts to me. But out in the world, I got a chance to experience people's looks and rude comments with regard to my brown aunt and her little white niece. Perhaps that changed who I was, and helped feed my love for black people, seeing as my aunts were brown skinned too. Perhaps I was black in a previous life. Or perhaps I just know beauty and strength when I see it. No matter what color wrapping it comes in.

No matter how I got this way, I find myself moved to live the dream of that globe picture we all had in our classrooms as kids, the one with all the different colors of children in their different outfits holding hands around the Earth. And even in the face of a world that looks nothing like that globe, I keep trying to make it, trying to reach for harmony.

So I talk about white people and black people and all the races and the struggles we share. And if you've seen me do stand up, you know that some of the stuff I say has a lot of painful truth in it (this is comedy?) but to me only the truth will set us free, and the best tool of truth I have is my funny bone. So if you get the chance to catch me live, come out, see for yourself why I call myself the whitest black comic in America. And check back to this blog, because I will be doing other installments about my life and experiences with the great American "melting" pot, in the continuing series, "Why I Love Black People and Other Thoughts on Color Celebration".

Thanks for reading me, much love,
Suzzanne Monk


sweet melissa March 18, 2008 at 7:45 PM  

that is so ridiculous. I am a minority because I am white and I am discriminated against and I am not protected and neither are you BECAUSE U R WHITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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