Sunday, December 03, 2006

Act Three - Transformation Pt. 2

Understood within the history of fluctuating racial categories in the pre-Jim Crow era, the failures of the Civil Rights Movement, contemporary color tensions within the “black” community and my own personal experiences (and probably that of many other “light-skinned” blacks) make far more sense.

Once the new industrial economic system had been fully established, and the latest wave of European immigrants were fully assimilated into “whiteness”, the American elite was prepared to concede to a change in race relations. The Civil Rights Movement was this change and it reintroduced the two color line system into American society. The integrationist and separatist factions within the 20th century’s “black” leadership have actually represented the interests of two different groups, biracials and blacks respectively. The gains of the integrationist led Civil Rights Movement ultimately only served biracial’s interests, along with those blacks that managed to attain middle class status during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow periods.

The black integrationist MLK, who himself married a biracial, led the charge. Although the tactics were often economic, the ends effectively called for the reintroduction of a two color line system that also held blacks at the bottom economically. The American elite answered with the legal reinstatement of rights enjoyed by some biracials pre-Jim Crow, and the end of the One Drop Rule. However, the structure that kept blacks at the bottom of the economic ladder remained intact.

When MLK began to challenge this economic order with his Poor People’s Campaign, in effect advocating for black advancement, white liberals (many belonging to ethnic groups that had just passed into “whiteness”) waned in support. MLK moved ahead anyway and was promptly assassinated.

Since the
n the integrationist black and biracial leadership has mostly moved into the mainstream and left blacks to fend for themselves. Hip Hop – a music and culture describing the ghetto experience – was born out of this split. Except for the nascent Black Power Movement that fizzled out in the early 70s, Hip Hop has allowed blacks for the first time to represent themselves and their struggles in their full humanity. (Unfortunately this is in danger from corporate takeover and stereotype propaganda) Some biracials have been making attempts to reject the One Drop Rule and self define as well. And the drowning of New Orleans may be influencing Louisiana Creoles to reclaim their culture and assert their mixed racial identities. The wild card in all this is biracials who continue to one drop themselves. Whether One Drop Rule will continue to serve the socio-economic interests of blacks or biracials, if it ever really did, is being put to the test with this latest wave of immigrants. Time will tell.

- These series of posts are dedicated to the ‘finest woman in East Elmhurst’ of her day, my mother Kathlean Elizabeth Barnes. I am bold because she could not be

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