Monday, November 24, 2008

House Negroes

I guess I'm in an argumentative mood, 'cause I can't stop talking about things people typically argue about. So Al Queda had this to say about MY President.

Now, I really do think Barack Obama has the intelligence or will get the intelligence to find and kill Bin Laden 'nem. The first BLACK President? Yeah, it's a wrap for the terrorists.

But nevermind that. What I want to know is, in this post-slavery, post-Jim Crow error, why do black people, especially, insult each other by calling some folks "house negroes."

I'm not saying why do it, I'm saying why is "HOUSE negro" an insult. Were not all of our people enslaved? Do people really think that the slaves in the house wanted to be away from their own kids nursing white women's kids. Do people really think the slaves in the house enjoyed being raped by the old white men who's kids they were birthing and raising as bastards? Do people think the slaves in the house enjoyed explaining to their kids that their father was a white man, but that they aren't entitled to any of his white money because they're JUST negroes.

Are you effing kidding me, black people? Are we that divided that we can't look at slavery as a collective experience? Are we that full of self-hatred that we like to think that ALL of our ancestors worked in the field? Do we think that we're light-skinned for no reason?

Seriously. We've given this self-hatred and denigration such power that it's allowed a terrorist to use it against our President elect. It's disgusting to me. It was disgusting when Malcolx X [God, rest his soul] introduced (or perhaps reintroduced) the notion and it's still disgusting now. And don't take my angry word for it, Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell clarifies in paragraph 8 of this post. [H/T: Kismet][Side note: I really love and respect Malcolm X, but that doesn't mean I agree with everything he said]

I know there were slaves that betrayed their own for personal gain, but not EVERY house negro betrayed their people and not every field negro was loyal. Can we seriously chill with the nonsense?

If you think field negroes were better... somehow more noble or more "down for the cause" than house negroes, I dare you to think differently. I dare you to go cook somebody else's food, sew somebody else's clothes, clean somebody else's toilets, raise somebodys else's kids; and THEN be raped by somebody's... anybody's husband who claims to hate you in public, then claims he loves you in private. After your do all that come back and show me how you can deny any group of enslaved people the memory of the injustice that they endured.

How can enslaved people with shared histories be viewed as different by us based on where the oppression happened to them?

If we choose to asign one a noble tag and another a traitor tag, then we are actively and consciously doing the work of Willie B. Lynch.

Let's not do that.


ThummyB said...

I actually don't hear this 'insult' used quite so commonly anymore. Do you? If so, then in what context?

I'm genuinely asking b/c I haven't heard anyone call someone a 'house negro' as synonymous with 'sell-out' in quite a long time.

T said...

Without throwing hate, I'm actually talking about a blog called Field Negro. He actually has a "House Negro of the Week" segment.

But you're right, I haven't heard it in conversation since college when the good brother Kamal introduced us to it via an excerpt from the good brother Malcolm X.

TatooTuesday said...

WOW, I agree with T, 100%, for once in life.

Thummy B:
"House Negro" is used and implied with several different other insults. I've seen "House Nigger" insults thrown at Condoleza, Tiger Woods, Colin Powell, John Legend, Halle Berry and a host of other light-skin blacks. Even if the exact term is not used, the purpose is still there with the other insults.

ThummyB said...

@ T - Gotcha

@ Tatoo - Thanks. I often hear tons of other insults w/similar implications, but I guess I just rarely hear that term anymore.

Kismet said...

As a historian of slavery, this is one of the myths and/or collective memory U.S. black people seem to have of slavery. I dislike this one most. It feeds into and bolsters all sorts of stereotypes of who is more "black", who is more down, who is more likely to foment rebellion and who did or did not benefit from the so-called Man.

The Gangsta MHL breaks it down, as per the hat tip in T's post, so I won't even add anything to why this is bunk. Except to stress that MOST SLAVE REVOLTS THAT WE KNOW ABOUT--including the biggest one of all in the US which was the Civil War--WERE STARTED BY those who could be called "House Negroes". That is, drivers, domestics, classically educated or self-educated, mixed-race (though of course still one-drop-blackin' it), mobile--all of that. The House, I say, was down for the cause as much as the Field was.

I haven't heard it in general conversation in a long time but I also haven't heard slavery tropes get thrown around in a long time. I think maybe our generation's collective memory is more geared towards modern civil rights movement symbols--who is a hero (MLK) and who just sat down (Rosa), what is a community organizer, Black Panthers vs. NAACP, SNCC vs. SCLC, etc. Which feeds from those myths of house v. field but we understand them in a different context.

What we NEED to do is study more history to get at these things and see the connections in how we knock the NAACP/house negroes/whatever else...but that is just historian in me talking :)

Field Negro's blog is interesting because he is actually Jamaican. So it makes me wonder how and where he mixes up his popular culture lingo. I feel it though. No Knock Field.

identitycrisis said...

Good look on this post T. I'm all about correcting people's collective memory.

When I read your list of questions, I was also thinking about us as a present day people and all the terms that TT alluded to that we use to divide ourselves - talking/acting white, selling out etc. It brought certain questions to mind like - do we all not experience racism of some sort? One of my girls was on some "Barack ain't 'African American' and doesn't have the same history as the rest of us" type ish but is he not receiving death threats just because of the color of his skin. The ways we find to separate ourselves is infuriating. This might become a post for me but I just wanted to point out how we use the "divisions" of the past against each other today. Are the current ones any more real than the ones of the past?

Mrs.Young_fashion said...

I think that any reference to the times of slavery with an attitude other than sympathy should be kept inside and not allowed to come out people's mouth, because then you hear the ignorance that runs rampant in everyones mind. A part of the American history and facts are still distorted. How sad.