Response to “Black People Are Cowards”


Owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling has set the series of tubes ablaze. Although suspected, it’s still not confirmed that it is in fact Sterling on the recording making racist remarks when arguing with his girlfriend, V. Stiviano who is half black half Mexican. Assuming that it is, it has sparked outrage. Former and current NBA players want him to give up ownership of The Clippers and leave the league all together.  Snoop Doggy Dog cursed him out on Instagram. Retired New York Knicks forward Larry Johnson called for an All-African American basketball league. While in Malaysia, standing next to Malaysia’s Prime Minster, President Obama called the comments, “incredibly offensive racist statements.” The NAACP was going to give Sterling, who has knowingly been involved in other racist incidents, a life time achievement award, but has since rescinded their planned recognition.  One of the more side swiping reactions to this whole fiasco is Homeboy Sandman’s Gawker essay,  “Black People Are Cowards.” Looking at the comments section below it’s easy to imagine people reading his essay with their eyes pried open in total disbelief; some of his fans feeling betrayed. His lack of context left him wide open to be attacked. Calling black people “cowards,” from his perspective, could be his ironic and unorthodox way of motivating the black community to take a hard stance on Sterling’s revealing comments. Towards the end he said, 

I don’t really think black people are cowards. I think humans are cowards. Most of us. I think that regardless of where one’s phenotype places them within the imaginary concept of race, that the majority of us are content to live on our knees rather than die on our feet.

It’s almost as if to say, we’re all captives of our own complacency, content in our gluttonous habits and various forms of blind escapism. Sterling, along with other white owners of professional sports teams dominated by black players has slave owner and slave written all over it. The money basketball and football players make is the same as gassing their heads full of a false sense of social and moral progression. Fans admire the players, what more do you want? Comedian Chris Rock put it best, to paraphrase, “Shaq is rich. The white man that signs Shaq’s checks is wealthy.” 

Writer and blogger Black Steve over at The Black Tongue wrote an interesting response to Homeboy Sandman. Read it below.

Homeboy Sandman Is Not My Homeboy

Though his choruses are mediocre at best, Homeboy Sandman is one of the most-talented rappers in hip-hop. I’ve never heard a verse of his that didn’t impress me technically, stylistically or conceptually. Even his videos are generally impressive. That being said, Homeboy Sandman is not my homeboy.

In an op-ed published by Gawker, Homeboy Sandman declared and then defended the notion that black people are cowards. It’s a nonsense argument in principle and even worse in action. Sandman uses his dissatisfaction with the LA Clippers’ response to Donald Sterling’s racism to then accuse an entire populace of cowardice. His accusation does nothing more than reignite old, frustrating, condescending, dehumanizing, ahistorical and unempirical debates about whether black people’s collective condition is attributable to black people ourselves. I’m not sure how anyone who knows anything about American history could make such disgusting claims. I’m especially not sure how any black person who is living through the very consequences of American history could make those claims. But I’m not here to speculate.

I’m here to debate. But I don’t want to debate on Sandman’s terms; they just plain aren’t tenable. “Black people are cowards” is a statement that isn’t even worth laughing at. It’s pure bullshit, like homeopathy or justified rape. I don’t even want to debate with Sandman because his argument has no connection to the real world.

I want to debate with the people who are telling me that Sandman’s op-ed is a “must-read.” Why should I read an article where a black person gives legitimacy to the idea that black people should not be welcome at certain places? Why should I read an article where a black person uses “coon” as a way of addressing me? Why should I read an article that says, “Our enemy isn’t white people” as if that’s breaking news? Why should I read an article where a musician presents an entire genre as corrupted and inferior just because it doesn’t always uphold his particular values?

The only answer I can come up with for all these questions is that I should read this article if I want to be homeboys with someone who is unable to think complexly about the issues facing black America. I agree that the LA Clippers’ protest was kind of lame, but calling all black people cowards is even lamer. Anyone can blame rap music, basketball players, TV shows, movies and black people. Hell, those 5 targets of blame might as well be the starting lineup for people who want to play the game  “Let’s Fix Black America’s Problems.”

It takes someone with a creative mind to tackle the realities of black America with actual nuance, not Gawker-style, reductive talking points. Before today, I would have thought that Homeboy Sandman was in possession of such a creative mind, but it turns out that I was wrong.

But I don’t care about Homeboy Sandman. I care about black people telling other black people that our destinies are in our own hands as if there aren’t other hands tightly gripped around our throats. I understand the inclination to ask if black people are self-oppressing – it’s always a question worth asking for any group. But answering that question involves confronting the complexity of oppression and resistance to it, and thinking deeply about history and possibility, not responding to that complexity with prepackaged solutions that have never worked.

I’m so tired of black people comparing the present moment to the era of the Civil Rights Movement. Unless you live in Mississippi, those eras are absolutely incommensurate. Boycotts don’t solve problems in 2014. They barely solved them in 1956. This cannot be emphasized enough. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a unique historical event that was enabled by demographic concentration, community autonomy , social infrastructure in the form of robust churches (and tithing members!) and support from communities outside of Montgomery. The fact that it succeeded is a true marvel and one that I am immensely grateful for, but it wasn’t just a matter of everyone holding hands and being strong. Black people have always been strong, but strength has never been enough. That boycott succeeded because strength was coupled with power and imagination. Circulating an article that actively drains black people of all three is absolutely a step in the wrong direction.

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