“Similarly, the zoot suit uniform was an act of defiance against white standards of behavior.” (page 45)For years the question has plagued me concerning why we [African Americans] do some of the things that we do. I am speaking particular of things that just don’t make sense such as sagging pants; caps worn in every way accept the way in which it was made; taking derogatory terms such as “nigger” and thinking we are redefining it by our use instead of a Caucasian person using it; using Ebonics and slang; not getting our education; wearing our boots/sneakers untied; wearing raggedy clothing such as ripped jeans; and the list goes on and on. Supposedly all of this is done to create our own individual and unique “identity,” which made the Marable passages leap off of the page at me.
“Like the zoot-suiters, beboppers implicitly rejected assimilation into standards established by whites and were contemptuous of the police and the power of the U.S. government over black people’s lives. Both sought to carve out identities that blacks could claim for themselves.” (page 63)
I’ve asked this question in other blog posts as well concerning how silly are we [African Americans] willing to look in order to create this individual and unique identity? The Marable passages helped me to see clearer what I believe that we believe we are doing when we are doing some of the silly stuff that I see on a day in and day out basis and that is we truly believe that we are defying this alleged “white standard of behavior.” In too many of our [African American] minds we truly believe that there is such a thing as a white standard of behavior opposed to just a standard of excellence that is a standard for everyone regardless of what color, race, or creed that we are. That’s where this notion of someone who speaks well is seen as “talking white,” or someone who does something in an excellent manner as “acting white.” The last time I looked, doing something in its correct manner does not have a color, race or creed associated with it. You either do it in an excellent manner or you don’t. Wearing pants with your underwear showing is not symbolic of excellence. Dummying one’s self down because you don’t think it is cool to be smart is not symbolic of excellence. What are African Americans who tell other African Americans that they talk or act white saying about African Americans? Are they saying that African Americans ought to be illiterate and do things ass-backwards? Do we really think about what we are saying when we say that to each other? Secondly, the statement gives too much credit to White people. Who says that doing something in a correct, proper or excellent manner is only done by White People? Yet that is what the "You speak or act white” statement says.
That’s why Mr. Marable’s words describing the 1930’s and 1940’s made me wonder if that is what we call ourselves [African Americans] doing (showing defiance against white standards of behavior and rejecting assimilation into standards established by whites) and if so, to what lengths are we willing to go particularly when we are making ourselves [African Americans] look like fools. We are not looking unique,we are looking like fools. So the question is, is there such a thing as a white standard of behavior or is it just a standard of behavior to achieve excellence?
Why not defy this so called white standard (if exists) by surpassing it? Surpassing it educationally; surpassing it behaviorally; surpassing it financially; surpassing it in responsibility. No, instead we defy it by sagging our pants, twisting our caps with the stupid little label still affixed to the brim , calling women bitches and hoes (whores), dropping out of school, etc. etc. etc.
Now I know there are some brothers (and perhaps sisters) out there who will challenge me and even try to argue that we [African Americans] ought to be able to act anyway we want. After all we were brought to this country against our will in chains and on the slave ships. As sure as you are reading this (if you have read this far) there will be some brother(or sister) out there looking to condone our [ African Americans] irresponsible behavior thinking he/she is indeed defying this “white standard of behavior,” while in the meantime we are falling further and further behind in every category. Oh and now the brother will say that it is by design that we are falling behind. I know the arguments, I hear them all of the time, yet the fact of the matter is, for the most part African Americans have the highest numbers in anything negative and the lowest numbers for anything positive and it does not have to be. In many instances we are our own worst enemy. So I don’t know about you but if there is such a thing as a “white standard of behavior,” I am looking as an African American male to go way beyond it; however, I don’t think a “white standard of behavior” exists and that there is only a standard of excellence that applies to us all regardless of color race or creed. More to critically think about and as always I welcome your thoughts in the comment section of the blog.