Sunday, December 10, 2006

Black Americana

This is a small sample of my collection of Black Americana for Chuck B. who is wondering what similar items from his grandparents house may mean. I don't know what if anything it may have meant to them. Not to long ago they were ordinary house hold items and common forms of advertising.

The Cream of Wheat, my first piece was presented to me as a gift from a friend when I lived in Colorado. I may have still had a bit of a southern accent then and a way of talking that someone from Oregon assumed meant I was a racist. I'm like Honey are there even any black people in Oregon? You haven't got a clue what racism is like.

The Shell Gasoline ad was also a gift from a friend who saw my other items and thought of me when he saw this. I have never made a real effort to collect this stuff. It just seems to land near me.

The Darkie Toothpaste was also first given to me when I lived in Colorado by a world traveler who found it in Singapore and thought of me. Hmmm? I guess a real southerner was an oddity to all those folks out west back in the early 80's.

These gifts were given with a smile, a wink and a laugh. If I was being called a racist on some level I knew in my heart it wasn't true. I accepted them with gratitude and kept them to remind me of the culture I had left behind.


Anonymous said...

I think maybe no one knows what to say... but who am I to seak for anyone other than myself? So... I'll get th ball rolling:

It is interesting the see the physical vestiges of a not-so-long-ago different time. Without question, things were bad then (not to say all is well now). But the destruction of the "seperate but equal" legal standard is benchmark. MLK is, undoubtedly, a hero to all people.

Today the pendulum has swung to such an extreme the OTHER way. We are, as a culture, TOTALLY wrapped up in polically correct appearances (but not neccesarily actions). This "art" is perhaps uncomfortable now. I recently held a series of focus groups for an initiative I'm behind. I learned an interesting thing: I asked about the demographic/ethnographic make-up of the panels and commented, facetiously, that the groups seemed "a little light." I was told, in no certain terms, that this was by design. "We've excluded African Americans from these focus groups." That's ourtageous! Why on earth would you do something like that?

The answer was surprising: it has been proven stastically that non-African-Americans will not (generally) contradict the opinion of an African American on a focus group panel. The result is an unrepresentative survey of attitudes and impressions... or rather, a waste of research dollars.

Call it guilt. Call it political correctness. Call it fear. Call it whatever you will.


I would not dream of hanging any of those things on my walls... there is way too much of downside in my particular situation.

Further, I'll even post here anonymously. (H)

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

I have a contrarian nature and do not mind being a bit provocative. Growing up in the south as it was integrating I may be a bit immune to the controversy. I was fortunate too in that I was not taught this racism in my family. It was really quite the opposite. I was learning one thing from my parents by example and seeing the very different larger culture outside my home.

It is like the "Hate that Dare not Speak its Name." I think it should be laid out for all to see and talked about.

Another interesting historical facet of the Shell ad if you expand it and read it is that it shows the beginnings of the petro-chemical assualt on farming and gardening that started after WWII. The idea of better gardening through chemistry that still haunts us today.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Where I live, most people who are black are either mixed race, or they are straight from Africa -- so whites don't feel any "guilt" around them. We have discussions on work breaks all the time where we sometimes agree, and sometimes disagree -- but always state our true feelings. Just the other night, a group of us (all women) were talking about how happy we all are that Barack Obama is running for President. Besides the fact that he is a good man, perhaps we subconsciously all feel a kinship with him because he is both white and black. In the group, five of us were white, one woman (born and raised in this country) was of black African descent on her father's side/white European on her mother's side, and one woman (also born and raised in this country) was mixed race -- of black American, white American, and native American descent. In discussions about our state's newly elected governor Deval Patrick -- who is black, we did disagree on some points. We were just as open about the points of disagreement as on the points of agreement. So, maybe the focus groups would work better if there were some mixed race members or immigrant (black or white) members present on those panels to kind of "bridge" the races -- to make it easier for the white American members to be open if they happen to disagree with an opinion of a black American member.

One interesting thing to note: In our discussion about Barack Obama, we also briefly raised the question about how his run would affect Hillary Clinton's chances. The mixed race women were of the opinion that the majority of voters in this country would sooner elect a woman for president than a black man, while the white women believed that voters would sooner elect a man of any race before they'd elect a woman. We all agreed that Hillary and Barack should run on the same ticket. But I believe that will only work in the Democrats' favor if the Republicans also nominate a woman.