“Wonderful White” and “Bad Black”


Over the weekend I viewed an episode of Law & Order in which a wife was killed and the husband was accused of her murder…sounds familiar doesn’t it. I am sure it does, but as usual there was a wonderful twist in the plot that takes this storyline from the generic husband kills wife over (insert motif here),  to wow that was a surprising twist to that story. In this particular episode the wife had actually been killed by the husband’s ex-wife because she did not want the current wife to change her mind about giving her child up for adoption. Did I lose you? Well to make a very long, interesting story, short and sweet, the husband was African-American but had been passing for white for the majority of his life and the baby he and his wife had recently given up for adoption had been black; and I don’t mean pale, Colin Powell black, I mean Hershey’s Kiss, James Brown black. When the uppity, white,  ex-wife found out about this chocolate baby, she was enraged when she found out that her ex-husband and his wife had decided to cancel the adoption plans and regain custody of their brown baby. This would ruin the ex-wife’s whitewashed world and now all of her uppity friends would know that she had once been married to a black man and that oops she also had a black child (yes, she too had a child with the “passer” but their son looked Caucasian) To stop the secret from being revealed, the ex-wife gave the current wife a swift push over the balcony resulting in her death.

This got me to seriously thinking about something the ex-wife said as she was being charged for the murder.  She said that she did not want her son to have to face life as a Black person. Basically she said that black men have it much harder than white men. They are not offered the same opportunities. They are looked over for jobs that they are better or equally qualified for. They are accused of snatching up innocent little white women and killing their children. They are harassed, profiled and targeted by the police and shot for even flinching when pulled over for random traffic stops. Sadly, black men are often treated as if each and every one is a criminal and they are discriminated against in just about every aspect of life. The mother in this episode of Law & Order did not want her son to have to face life being stereotyped and discriminated against because now he was no longer “Safe White.”  He would now be “Bad Black” and being “Bad Black” would mean that her son would not get a fair shake in life. He would lose his white privilege.

Of course she didn’t say all of that, but I can imagine that any white person faced with suddenly having to be black would envision the list of things attached with being “Bad Black” named and would quickly realize that black is not what they wanted to be. All of this makes me think back to the lectures on white privilege given byanti-racist writer and educator,  Tim Wise that I listened to for my African-American Studies class. To hear Mr. Wise, a white man, acknowledge and speak on white privilege and inequality was hard-hitting for me. It is not very often that white people acknowledge the very evident privileges that they often encounter just because they are white.

Now personally I have been black my entire life, have lived in the South my entire life and have experienced my fair share of racism, so I can truly understand why a person who wasn’t black wouldn’t choose to be if they had a choice. But I wouldn’t trade being Black for anything in the world. I love being black; the many shades and hues of our skin, the history of our people, the richness of our culture and the journey and destinations we have yet to encounter and conquer. The blackness of my black is outstanding. It is luminous and strong. I am definitely a fan of being black.

But, have you ever taken the time to think about how other races feel when it comes to not being black? Do you think they feel like the wife from Law & Order and couldn’t imagine having to live life in skin that was any shade of brown? Do you think that people of other races ever sit back and breathe a sigh of relief thanking God that they are not black? Maybe while watching the news or witnessing “blackness” in their own environments, make this thankfulness even stronger. Being aware of what African-Americans have had to conquer from slavery to now, do you blame them for being happily white? Why wouldn’t they warmly accept the birth right of being a “Wonderful White” instead of a “Bad Black”?

For those people who are African-American, but have been able to pass as White, I am sure there have been many times when they felt ashamed and maybe even disappointed in themselves, but with the path that African-Americans have had to trod, maybe being able to be seen by the world as white was an opportunity that these people were thankful for.

 It really gave me something to think about. However being black is something I take pride in. I ♥ Black

About Black Girl Thinking

One black girls blog about everything

Posted on January 25, 2011, in BLACK (history, life, culture etc), From Television, History, I ♥ Black, Race Matters, The Issues and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Terribly racialized plots like this are exactly why I stopped watching Law Order. It is bad enough that we have a never ending stream of dead White women every week but when they turn to Black women they notch up the hatred just to make it extra special.

  2. This is such an interesting post because in many ways I can relate………, on a very different level. I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic/Mexican city, and I am white. As a small child my family lived in Hawaii on the big island….., which is not known for having anything good to say about the Haole (white person)…, and given their history you can’t blame them. All this to say, I am very used to being the only white kid at a party…, because most of the time I was, and honestly? I didn’t care. You posed the question ” Do you think they feel like the wife from Law & Order and couldn’t imagine having to live life in skin that was any shade of brown?” There were many times when I wished that God had made me brown. I was the one that my best friend’s Mexican family would make fun of, not knowing I could understand what they were saying. I’m not saying this to say, “poor me”. I loved my growing up and I love the influence of other cultures in my life. I am asking you as a wonderful woman of color, to understand that just because some of us are white, doesn’t mean we don’t wish we were brown or black. I have had to go through the same process of being ok with how God made me, and I will say this, I agree that it is harder for people of color if they are living in a world dominated by the white man, and I do pray that a time will come in this country where color is something we celebrate and not something we tolerate. I feel that it is important to learn what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes……, and I really appreciate your blog. I am thankful for people that choose to educate about their culture instead of assume everyone wants to be ignorant. So, thank you.

  3. Wow, that’s some episode right there. It makes me think too. That woman did EVERYTHING she could to prevent her son from being recognized as a black man, because she knows. She has a TV like everyone else does. She knows about the differences in job opportunities, how police treat black people in comparison to whites. White people know that it’s harder to be black in America, and wouldn’t trade their lives for it.

    What’s funny, is how blacks know it’s harder to be black, and even harder to be Mexican, yet we still wouldn’t trade for it.

  4. Black Girl

    There is no such thing as forever. Slavery didn’t last forever, and black pathology is not gonna last forever. Our african ancestors were brought to the Americas by force, not by choice. Of course, whites and others have the upper-hand on us right now, because they weren’t slaves. Black people will be victorious when it’s all said and done, despite the jealousy and envy of others who are not black. Black v. Non-Black is how the world deals with race, not White v. Non-White. Black people should never apologize or feel guilty because we’re black and others are not. Black Girl, blackness is the ultimate aim and objective!

    Tyrone

  5. Menelik Charles

    This was a tv plot, right? They do tend to go over the top to make their point, right? I mean, seriously, would a white woman have behaved like this in the 1930s let alone the 21st century?

    Probably not.

  6. um yes they would.. just not that overtly

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