Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Unbearable Burden Of Whiteness (A Poem)

Jim Hurlbut: You were born in Omaha, is that right?
Malcolm X:Yes sir.
Hurlbut: And your family left Omaha when you were what? One year old?
Malcolm X: I imagine about a year old.
Hurlbut: Now, why did they eave Omaha?
Malcolm X: Well, to my understanding… the Ku Klux Klan burned down one of their homes in Omaha.
Hurlbut: This made your family feel very unhappy actually?
Malcolm X: Well insecure if not unhappy.
Hurlbut: So they must have a somewhat prejudiced point of view — a personally prejudiced point of view. In other words, you cannot look at this in a broad, academic sort of way, really, can you?
Malcolm X: I think that’s incorrect, because despite the fact that that happened in Omaha and then when moved to Lansing, Michigan our home was burned down again — in fact, my father was killed by the Ku Klux Klan, and despite all of that, no one was more thoroughly integrated with whites than I. No one has lived more so in the society of whites than I. 
This portion of this famous interview has always fascinated me. Hurlbut is asserting that people of color cannot be objective about racism because they have experienced the violence of racism, which apparently “prejudices” you. Only white people can look at racism in a “broad, academic sort of way” because they are the architects of racism and only experience the benefits of white supremacism. And he’s sitting there saying this on national television as though he’s making sense. Hurlbut is pushing this intellectual depravity at Malcolm X as though he has found a clever way to discredit Malcolm’s perspective. This is what white racism does to white people: it makes them stupid. This is why I’ve often described whiteness as a cognitive trauma, a lifetime of conditioning which inhibits certain neural faculties and results in a certain kind of dissociative disorder. Only people who have dissociated themselves from their own humanity can happily picnic under swinging corpses.


microdot said...

If you know the history of Malcom X, you know his statement about being integrated into the white community of Lansing, Michigan are absolutely fact.
Read his bio and background if you don't know. He knew, he understood, he absolutely understood the unbearable burden of whiteness.

mud_rake said...

This 'exchange' between the two men is classic! The reactionary right-s focus on race is as disgusting as it is ignorant. Frequent commenter, Sepp, seems to have a hang-up about race too. We Americans can't seem to get past the race issue and it is tearing us apart!

microdot said...

agghhh...sepp...too much static, the same old stench, no real substance...once a lovable troll, now a chronic condition.
Analogy: Facts are to Sepp as what Preparation H is to Hemmorhoids.

steve said...

I don't think the black community has ever been invited into American culture and therefore have lived outside of Americana. Since slavery, they have gained freedom to just whither and flounder. We gave native Americans useless tracks of land to maintain their separation. The separation we have with black America is more in our minds and consciousness than an actual physical place. But I do think, that at the grass roots level, and at higher levels of society, the welcome mat has been put out on the porch for our black brothers. So it is, in a way, up to them to recognize the welcome mats where they exist and take advantage of them - like President Obama has. He is the greatest example for the black community ever.. It's just a shame that he is a typical politician enamored with corporate money, power, and opinions. I'm not ready to say President Obama is an empty suit, but He needs to take some DEFINATE leadership on some issues, and soon.

The demographics don't look very good for Caucasians and Anglo peoples the world over. We have maybe a 1/2 to 1 century to make nice with our (now) minority brothers.

We will all need to come together in order to fight our machine overlords next century. (I kidd).

revere said...

I have nothing about the substance of this to add. However I once met Malcolm X, in fact sat next to him at a small table in the Rathskeller of the University of Wisconsin Student Center in the early 1960s where he was having a conversation with some of us. I wish I could tell you what he said then (like many things, I can't remember), but I can tell you that he had the most intense eyes and manner of anyone I have ever met. I still have the image of his gaze. I remember it vividly as neither frightening nor inspiring. Just unbelievably intense and penetrating.

microdot said...

He was such an interesting pivotal individual. Much more interesting than his myth.
Thanks for your memory, Revere.