Anyone who has been meticulously perusing prominent Black websites over the past week or so has probably come across Why I Hate Being a Black Man, an article written by Canadian journalist Orville Douglas. He has made national and international headlines with the column discussing the self-hatred he has internalized and consumed due to the fact that he is Black. Yes, indeed, the Black bloggersphere (and all other avenues of social media) have been dutifully dissecting, critiquing, discussing and certainly reacting and responding to Douglas’ article. Douglas has engaged in a stroke of public relations genius.
Mild sarcasm aside, no one can deny from his piece that this young Black man is grappling with a vehement level of hate, disgust and resentment, both toward himself and those who share his racial heritage.
His recent interview with CNN commentator Don Lemon was candid and engaging. When I first read his article, I was stunned. In fact, I had to reread the piece to make sure that my eyesight was not blurred or that my imagination was not running wild.
I felt myself aching with sympathy for Douglas. I could almost feel his hurt, isolation and other forms of distress through his lacerating “take no prisoners” article. In all honesty, prior to his column, I had never read any piece where a person (in particular an educated Black person) had been so candid in how so little they thought of themselves. To those of you who have not or do not intend to read his piece, Douglas discusses rabid disgust with his physical appearance. He mentions how he is angry at his “large thick lips,” broad nose and being despised by the larger (read White mainstream) world on a daily basis.
In fact, he was probably being painfully honest in his remarks. As someone who grew up with parents who always instilled pride in me and my siblings, I can honestly state that I have never resented the fact that I am Black. Have I ever wondered what it would be like to be a member of another race? Yes I have. I have also thought about how my life would have turned out if I had been born female, in another nation, disabled and other possible scenarios for that matter. Moreover, I have never harbored any self-hatred. That being said, I am old enough to realize the cold, hard reality that Douglas’ perceptions of himself are not an isolated case.
There is too much evidence to confirm that Douglas is far from an aberration. Any astute observer of past and present history is well aware of the fact that, from the moment Africans arrived on the American shores, there was a deliberate effort by some to demean, humiliate, disregard, manipulate and mistreat people of African ancestry by various extralegal methods. This exercise has taken place for centuries. It should come as no surprise that such self-hatred is deeply embedded within more than a few of our brethren of all ages.
We can see it in the tests that are given to young Black children and pictures are shown to them where far too many see White dolls as prettier. We see self–hatred manifest itself when several Black pro football players consider a perverse, crude, cruel, loudmouth, misfit, White linebacker with a history of disciplinary problems more representative of Blackness than a young, sophisticated, cultured, well-educated, reserved Black man. We see it on YouTube, videos, Twitter, Black-oriented websites and other venues where a number of Black people have something negative to say about Black men, Black women, Black culture or Black people in general.
This is further compounded when we see ourselves frequently depicted as drug dealers, prostitutes, lazy, less intelligent, dishonest, shiftless and in other retrograde images. Such a level of ongoing negativity can certainly take its toll. For much of our history, Black Americans have often been targeted as scapegoats for much that is deficient, dysfunctional, immoral, amoral or just plain wrong with the world. The fact that Douglas is Canadian gives us some insight into the apparent racially regressive attitudes of some of our Canadian neighbors. Perhaps being introduced to positive representations of Black history and culture would be a tremendous benefit to him.
One can only hope that Orville Douglas can eventually free himself of such psychological misery sooner rather than later for the sake of his physical and mental well being. The reality (and he obviously knows this) is that he will always be Black.
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Could training in implicit bias be helpful at your institution?