WBEZ | African-American http://www.wbez.org/tags/african-american-0 Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Black firefighter follows in the footsteps of his father http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/black-firefighter-follows-footsteps-his-father-110019 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/140411 StoryCorps DeKalb Wolcotts (1).JPG" alt="" /><p><p><em>Dekalb Walcott III and Dekalb Walcott Jr. (Photo courtesy of StoryCorps)</em></p><p>For more than three decades Dekalb Walcott Jr was one of the few African Americans in the Chicago Fire Department.</p><p>His son, Dekalb Walcott III, always dreamed of following in his footsteps.</p><p>&quot;A lot of young black people didn&rsquo;t really get the pleasure of growing up with a father,&quot; Dekalb Walcott III said. &quot;You know, I&rsquo;m from Chicago where we had the Bulls back in the &rsquo;90s and Michael Jordan was famous.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;Everybody wanted to be like Mike, but for me, myself, I wanted Dekalb Walcott Jr. &mdash; that was my Michael Jordan.&rdquo;</p><p>To hear more about their family history and the importance of father figures in the black community, click on the audio above.</p><p><em>Meredith Zielke is a WBEZ producer.&nbsp;</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/black-firefighter-follows-footsteps-his-father-110019 The Chicago accent and the Chicago ‘blaccent’ http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-accent-and-chicago-%E2%80%98blaccent%E2%80%99-107040 <p><p>A few months ago, Curious City <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/our-almost-last-word-chuh-kaw-go-accent-104459">tackled the enigma known as the &ldquo;Chicago accent&rdquo;</a> &mdash; its origins, who speaks with it, and how the accent is evolving today. One important qualification? Not all Chicagoans speak the dialect made famous by <a href="http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/bob-swerskis-super-fans/n10687/">SNL&rsquo;s superfans</a>. Linguists say African-American Chicagoans are more likely to speak a dialect called AAE: African-American English.</p><p>In our first <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chuh-kaw-go-what-do-you-really-sound-103361">article</a> on the Chicago accent, I characterized AAE this way:</p><p><em>&ldquo;AAE is remarkable for being consistent across urban areas; that is, Boston AAE sounds like New York AAE sounds like L.A. AAE, etc.&rdquo;</em></p><p>That description didn&rsquo;t sit well with reader Amanda Hope, who left the following (unedited) comment on our website:</p><p><em>I&#39;m an African-American woman who was born and raised on Chicago&#39;s Southside but I&#39;ve lived in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. I&#39;ve also spent a significant amount of time in the South. Let me be the first to tell you that AAE has a variety of accents. In fact, Washington,DC and Baltimore, MD are about a 45 minute car drive away from one another and there is a stark contrast between the accents of blacks from Baltimore and the accents of blacks from DC. To take my point even further, Black Chicagoans make fun of the accent of Black St. Louis residents all the time because of their &quot;errrrrr&quot; sound. I&#39;m so tired of articles and studies suggesting that African Americans are comprised of some homogenous group. There&#39;s actually a lot of diversity among African Americans from religion to food to ACCENTS.</em></p><p>And, when I met Amanda in person, she elaborated. &ldquo;I found myself a little offended by the statement about there being an overall African-American accent or dialect,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;In my experience travelling around the country and living in different places, I have heard very different accents among African-American communities.&rdquo;</p><p>The specificity of Amanda&rsquo;s examples &mdash; e.g., the difference between D.C. and Baltimore AAE, as well as the St. Louis &ldquo;errr&rdquo; &mdash; &nbsp;stuck with both me and my editor, Shawn Allee. If AAE really were &ldquo;consistent across urban areas,&rdquo; how could Amanda have heard these things? Was it possible that we (not to mention all those other articles and studies driving Amanda up the wall) had missed something important? We had tried highlighting the diversity of accents within Chicago, but had we missed an opportunity to highlight what makes <em>Chicago</em> AAE unique?</p><p>Chicago is 33 percent African-American, meaning AAE might just be the second-most spoken dialect in this city. So we at Curious City decided to do some digging: Is AAE &ldquo;consistent across urban areas,&rdquo; or is it diverse?</p><p><strong>Tag, You&rsquo;re It</strong></p><p>Dialects include a distinctive grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. But Amanda and I were concerned only with pronunciation &mdash; literally how AAE <em>sounds</em> and the extent to which that&rsquo;s uniform. As we wrapped up our talk, Amanda suggested a place to start listening: YouTube.</p><p>In the videos she forwarded, African-American men and women, usually in their teens or twenties, read a list of words: aunt, roof, route, wash, oil, etc. This is an &ldquo;accent tag.&rdquo; Accent taggers rep their city&rsquo;s local dialect by reading a word list. They compare notes, applaud the most local accents, and poke fun at funny pronunciations. You find out about the meme when someone else &ldquo;tags&rdquo; you, and once you complete the tag, you can tag others. Think of it as the schoolyard game turned high-tech &mdash; a kind of citizens linguistics project.</p><p>A YouTube user named <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbhKTE4wJn0">miszjabre</a>, for example, reads off the following: <em>Aunt, Roof, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught, Naturally, Aluminium, Envelope.</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/QbhKTE4wJn0" width="420"></iframe></p><p>None of the taggers I contacted could say just who drafted the original word list, but chances are it wasn&rsquo;t a linguist. Professional linguists tend not to survey whether people say &ldquo;care-a-mel&rdquo; or &ldquo;car-mel,&rdquo; because those stereotypical pronunciations reveal little about a person&rsquo;s linguistic roots. But there&rsquo;s no question that accent tags accomplish what Amanda suggested; they show that while AAE around the country may share characteristics, it is not strictly uniform.</p><p>Just listen to how these three taggers, from Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York, pronounce &ldquo;water.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="243" scrolling="no" src="https://www.thinglink.com/card/388069956249452544" type="text/html" width="467"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Accent tags also show that AAE speakers are thinking about regional variety. A lot, it turns out. Theopolus McGraw and Ashlee Nichols are just two of the taggers currently repping Chicago online, and their videos, combined, have more than 25,000 views. Both pronounce the word list in what they playfully term their Chicago &ldquo;blaccents.&rdquo; Theopolus tells me it&rsquo;s a blend: a little bit typical Chicago, a little bit African-American English. He says it&rsquo;s how people talked in Englewood and Chicago Heights, where he grew up.</p><p>Theopolus knows, for example, that like many of the people in his neighborhood, he drops his r&rsquo;s (&ldquo;You know, &lsquo;you a hata,&rsquo; &lsquo;I&rsquo;m a playa,&rsquo; stuff like that,&rdquo; he says). But he also knows he&rsquo;s got those <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chuh-kaw-go-what-do-you-really-sound-103361">fronted Chicago vowels</a> that make other people say he&rsquo;s talking out of his nose. Ashlee acknowledges that she pronounces &ldquo;towel&rdquo; and &ldquo;sausage&rdquo; in the typical Chicago fashion (as &ldquo;tahl&rdquo; and &ldquo;sahsage&rdquo;). But she also stresses her elongated Southern vowels. She doesn&rsquo;t go &ldquo;in,&rdquo; she says. She goes &ldquo;einn.&rdquo; She transforms the &ldquo;i&rdquo; sound in words like &ldquo;nine&rdquo; and &ldquo;five&rdquo; into an &ldquo;ah.&rdquo; So, she&rsquo;ll say &ldquo;nahne&rdquo; and &ldquo;fahve.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="233" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/SlV3qCzM5uQ" width="310"></iframe><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="233" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/t3XZSKr4g58" width="310"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Ashlee and Theopolus emphasize the &ldquo;Chicago&rdquo; in &ldquo;Chicago blaccent,&rdquo; because they know there are other blaccents out there. Both tell me they discovered them in college. Ashlee and Theopolus both attended historically Black universities in Florida and Washington, D.C., and they still crack up when they remember their college friends&rsquo; accents. &ldquo;Floridians don&rsquo;t usually put endings on their words,&rdquo; Ashlee says, laughing. &ldquo;They&rsquo;d just change the word completely. Like the word &lsquo;out.&rsquo; They may say &lsquo;at&rsquo; or something like that.&rdquo;</p><p>Theopolus remembers a roommate from Philadelphia who pronounced his l&rsquo;s in the back in his throat. &ldquo;He&rsquo;d say &lsquo;Fulladelphia&rsquo; or &lsquo;the Iggles&rsquo; [instead of the Eagles],&rdquo; he says. Theopolus drops the final &ldquo;r&rdquo; in a word like &ldquo;car,&rdquo; whereas his roommate pronounced it. Theopolus says he questioned his roommate&rsquo;s practice of inserting r&rsquo;s into some words. &ldquo;Every time I talked to him, it was like &lsquo;Teddy, hand me a cup of warter.&rsquo; I&rsquo;m like, &lsquo;A cup of what? What is warter?&rsquo; &rdquo;</p><p>After being immersed in blaccents from across the country at school, Theopolus has developed a theory: &ldquo;In most cities, when they talk about the way people talk, that&rsquo;s the standard accent. Then there&rsquo;s another way, which is usually African-American, depending on the population of the city. There&rsquo;s a Philadelphia accent, and then there&rsquo;s a Philadelphia blaccent, because there&rsquo;s a lot of Black people in Philadelphia. There&rsquo;s a Baltimore accent, and then there&rsquo;s a Baltimore blaccent. It&rsquo;s not always going to quite sound the same.&rdquo;</p><p>Listening to Ashlee and Theopolus, you might ask how the idea of AAE&rsquo;s uniformity ever took hold. What, if anything, do blaccents have in common?</p><p><strong>The origins of AAE &lsquo;uniformity&rsquo;</strong></p><p>Last October, I talked with Richard Cameron, head of the department of linguistics at The University of Illinois at Chicago, about the city&rsquo;s diverse accents. Cameron explained that AAE is a variety of English that&rsquo;s often (but not always) spoken by African-Americans. There is &ldquo;a great deal of uniformity and diversity within it,&rdquo; he explained, &ldquo;but by and large a curious aspect of AAE is its uniformity in such distant places as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, [and] Detroit.&rdquo;</p><p>Cameron wasn&rsquo;t going out on a limb here. Linguists have been describing AAE as more or less &ldquo;uniform&rdquo; since they started studying it in Northern cities in the late 1960s. In 1972, William Labov, the father of sociolinguistics, described AAE as a &ldquo;uniform dialect spoken by the majority of black young in most parts of the United States today.&rdquo; But what exactly did he mean by &ldquo;uniform?&rdquo; As scientific language goes, it might strike you as a squishy term, but here&rsquo;s what linguists seem to mean by it: AAE is &ldquo;uniform&rdquo; because speakers share certain core linguistic characteristics, regardless of geography.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ashlee%20graphic%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Ashlee from Chicago records herself doing an 'accent tag'' on YouTube." /></p><p>The list of so-called core characteristics can run long, but here&rsquo;s a sampling. Early AAE studies concluded that AAE speakers &mdash; regardless of geography &mdash; pronounced &ldquo;west&rdquo; as &ldquo;wes,&rdquo; &ldquo;bath&rdquo; as &ldquo;baf,&rdquo; and dropped the final r in words like &ldquo;fear&rdquo; and &ldquo;car,&rdquo; pronouncing them as &ldquo;feah&rdquo; and &ldquo;cah.&rdquo; (Theopolus remarked that dropped r&rsquo;s were common among his college classmates. On the list of blaccent similarities, he says, &ldquo;that&rsquo;s the main one.&rdquo;)</p><p>When I talk to Dennis Preston and John Baugh, Professors of linguistics at Oklahoma State University and Washington University in St. Louis, they add a few additional items to the list. AAE speakers, Baugh says, are likely to merge the &ldquo;i&rdquo; and &ldquo;e&rdquo; sounds in words like &ldquo;pin&rdquo; and &ldquo;pen,&rdquo; making them nearly indistinguishable (think straight &ldquo;pens&rdquo; and ink &ldquo;pins&rdquo;). Preston says they&rsquo;re also likely to transform the &ldquo;i&rdquo; sounds in &ldquo;time&rdquo; and &ldquo;night&rdquo; into an &ldquo;ah,&rdquo; pronouncing them as &ldquo;tahme&rdquo; and &ldquo;nahght.&rdquo; (Another example would be Ashlee&rsquo;s &ldquo;nahne&rdquo; and &ldquo;fahve&rdquo; for &ldquo;nine&rdquo; and &ldquo;five.&rdquo;) If these pronunciations strike you as Southern, you&rsquo;re right.</p><p>&ldquo;If we look back at the Great Migration, then the vast majority of African-Americans who ended up in New York, Buffalo, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and places like that came from [the South],&rdquo; Preston explains. &ldquo;A cause for consistency is that origin. That&rsquo;s the base. I mean, if it hadn&rsquo;t been there, then we wouldn&rsquo;t have an African-American English at all.&rdquo;</p><p>Consider this: Prior to the Great Migration, African-Americans in the South tended to speak a dialect of Southern English similar to that of their white neighbors. When they migrated en masse to Northern and Western cities between 1910 and 1970, they brought those accents with them. In segregated cities such as Chicago, black migrants were forced to live together in ghettos where Southern dialects remained the local standard. Small wonder, then, that a mere two or three generations later, three African-Americans living in LA, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., might share speech features.</p><p><strong>Challenging &lsquo;uniformity&rsquo;</strong></p><p>But ask Walt Wolfram, an AAE pioneer and linguist based at North Carolina State University, and he&rsquo;ll tell you that the uniformity narrative gets too much play. In fact, he&rsquo;s gone so far as to call AAE&rsquo;s uniformity a &ldquo;sociolinguistic myth.&rdquo; And perhaps he should know, since &mdash; by his own admission &mdash; he helped create it in the first place.</p><p>Wolfram was part of the first wave of linguists who researched AAE in Northern cities in the 1960s. (He performed his work in Detroit). At that time, he recalls, AAE was uncharted territory. &ldquo;In a sense,&rdquo; he explains, &ldquo;it was sort of an exotic other. Most early researchers who did research on AAE, like Labov and myself, were white. And so we came into these communities as people who had grown up in segregated situations. I would say that that was reflected in some of the things [we noticed].&rdquo;</p><p>As newcomers not yet attuned to AAE&rsquo;s subtleties, Wolfram and his colleagues noticed uniformity. They were &ldquo;totally impressed&rdquo; he says, by the fact that African-American speech in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and LA shared features that differed from those of the surrounding white populations. Uniformity became his and other linguists&rsquo; &ldquo;theme,&rdquo; he says, and &mdash; wittingly or unwittingly &mdash; they perpetuated it. &ldquo;I think we overlooked our own biases in terms of seeing regionality,&rdquo; he says. Which doesn&rsquo;t mean that African-Americans overlooked claims of uniformity. Wolfram remembers fielding hard questions from African-American attendees of his talks over the years &mdash; questions he now wishes he&rsquo;d taken more seriously.</p><p>As it happened, Wolfram&rsquo;s &ldquo;aha moment&rdquo; didn&rsquo;t occur until the 1990s, when he began studying African-American speakers in long-standing, rural North Carolina communities. When he played tape of these older, rural African-Americans to study participants, he was surprised to find that 90 percent of listeners misidentified the speakers as white. After generations living alongside white Carolingians in isolated, rural communities, African-American Carolingians had started to sound like their neighbors. It&rsquo;s an extreme example of what linguists sometimes call long-term accommodation: the process whereby accents take on features of surrounding dialects. Accommodation is the biggest source of regional difference within AAE, and it&rsquo;s probably the root of most of the differences Ashlee and Theopolus observed in college. Remember Theopolus&rsquo; roommate, the Philadelphian who retained the final &ldquo;r&rdquo; in &ldquo;car&rdquo;? By not dropping his r&rsquo;s, he stood out among his African-American classmates, but chances are he would have fit in with other Philadelphians. Like Theopolus and Ashlee, the roommate had a &ldquo;blend&rdquo;: part Philly, part AAE.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Theopolus.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Theopolus from Chicago's south side records himself doing an 'accent tag' on YouTube." />Everyone practices linguistic accommodation to some extent, usually unconsciously. But Ashlee and Theopolus suggest that African-Americans may feel greater pressure to do it. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t speak the norm,&rdquo; Ashlee says. &ldquo;So if we speak differently than the norm, we&rsquo;re looked down upon generally.&rdquo; For her, African-American English is largely about pitch. She believes that African-Americans often speak at a lower register than their peers. (She could be right. In a forthcoming article on AAE prosody, North Carolina State University linguist Erik Thomas cites research suggesting that African-Americans may speak at a lower overall register than their peers, or, alternately, that they may employ a wider range of pitches in informal speech.) For Ashlee, accommodation means trying to speak at a higher register with people she doesn&rsquo;t know, enunciating more clearly until she gets a sense of whether the person &ldquo;seems cool and open-minded.&rdquo; &ldquo;I hate that. I hate having to do that,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Theopolus doesn&rsquo;t think he consciously shifts his speech, but he&rsquo;s equally aware of the consequences of speaking a certain way. A former girlfriend, he explains, was part African-American and part Irish. She spoke with a &ldquo;typical Chicago&rdquo; accent. His cousins called her &ldquo;bougie,&rdquo; and it riled him. &ldquo;I&rsquo;d say, she&rsquo;s not bougie, she just grew up with a Chicago accent. Just because she talks like that doesn&rsquo;t mean she talks white. Just because she&rsquo;s black doesn&rsquo;t mean she has to have a blaccent.&rdquo; Theopolus probably isn&rsquo;t alone when he says he sometimes feels &ldquo;stuck in the middle.&rdquo; &ldquo;I&rsquo;m in between,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t ever fit in, you know, on solid ground.&rdquo;</p><p>But for better or worse, regional, long-term accommodation seems to be on the uptick. In &lsquo;60s Detroit, Wolfram recalls, AAE still sounded Southern, having no trace of the fronted vowels that would have suggested Great Lakes influence. And there was a good reason for that lack of accommodation: social segregation. For accommodation to happen, accents need to mingle. But four decades later, Wolfram says, we&rsquo;re in a very different linguistic and cultural landscape. &ldquo;Already today African-American speakers who live in New York sound New York. African-American speakers who have fairly extensive contact with white communities in Chicago and Philadelphia take on more of the regional qualities of those dialect areas,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Assuming we continue to see our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools become more and more diverse (we&rsquo;ve got our fingers crossed), that accommodation will likely continue. Expect to hear AAE become a lot more regional.</p><p><strong>Whose Ears?</strong></p><p>Clearly AAE is not completely uniform. Even supposedly &ldquo;core&rdquo; features like those dropped r&rsquo;s can turn out to be not so &ldquo;core&rdquo; in different parts of the country. But then just how diverse is it? John Baugh, the AAE scholar and Professor of linguistics at Washington University in St. Louis, is just one of the many African-Americans who&rsquo;ve entered the (admittedly small) sociolinguistics field since the 1960s. He suggests that your view of AAE&rsquo;s uniformity or diversity may ultimately say more about you than about AAE.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/amanda hope FOR WEB.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right; height: 367px; width: 275px;" title="Amanda Hope, who left a comment that inspired this investigation." />Baugh suggests that dialects have no unbiased listeners. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a degree of linguistic relativity that comes into play based on your linguistic exposure,&rdquo; he explains. &ldquo;It really does matter how attuned you are to the dialects, and for obvious reasons people are attuned to the dialects in their local region, where they interact with those dialects on a day-to-day basis.&rdquo;</p><p>People with extensive experience in African-American communities (think Ashlee Nichols, Theopolus McGraw, and our commenter, Amanda Hope) could be more attuned to regional difference. Pronounce &ldquo;Boston&rdquo; as &ldquo;Bawstin&rdquo; or &ldquo;soft&rdquo; as &ldquo;sawft,&rdquo; and they&rsquo;ll probably notice. But as the history of AAE research demonstrates, outsiders fixate on AAE&rsquo;s similarities: the dropped r&rsquo;s, the merged i&rsquo;s and e&rsquo;s, and the conservative vowels. Frustratingly, AAE offers enough evidence to satisfy those looking for similarity or difference.</p><p>&ldquo;So is AAE diverse? Is it consistent? Or does it just come down to who&#39;s listening?&rdquo; I ask Baugh.</p><p>His response?</p><p>&ldquo;Yes, yes, yes.&rdquo;</p><hr /><p><em>Have an accent video of your own you&rsquo;d like to share? Show us via Twitter. Mention <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZCuriousCity">@WBEZCuriousCity&nbsp;</a>and use #CCAccents , #AccentTag</em></p><p><em>Annie Minoff is a production assistant for WBEZ&#39;s <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/" target="_blank">Sound Opinions</a>. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/annieminoff">@annieminoff</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Mon, 06 May 2013 16:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-accent-and-chicago-%E2%80%98blaccent%E2%80%99-107040 No, we don't need a white history month http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/no-we-dont-need-white-history-month-105434 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ChrisOMeara.jpg" style="width: 435px; height: 290px;" title="Victoria Jackson (Chris O'Meara/AP)" /></div><p>If you were to live on the internet, you would think the world is the worst place. A few weeks ago, SNL star and current conservative court jester <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/online/conservative-former-snl-star-victoria-jackson-deletes-white-history-month-article/">Victoria Jackson</a> added to the world wide web&rsquo;s daily quotient of stupidity by lamenting the fall of the white man in America&mdash;now that the brown people and commies are taking over. (I&rsquo;m not kidding; she actually says that.) Her claim is that we don&rsquo;t thank white people enough for their contributions to society (has she not watched CBS?)&mdash;and to rectify it, we should have a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/01/victoria-jackson-snl-white-history-month_n_2599938.html">White History Month</a>. Let&#39;s take a moment for a collective facepalm, shall we?</p><p>Although the original post has been taken down, here&rsquo;s a choice excerpt. This is not to be read by those prone to racial tension headaches or expectant liberal mothers:</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&ldquo;Just for the record, white men invented rockets, space travel, airplanes, the automobile, the English language, the U.S.A., most medical advances, electricity, television, telescope, microscope, Ivy League Universities, the computer, the Internet, and on and on. I think white men should be praised and respected. White Christian Conservative Men especially, should be loved and adored. They were the backbone and originators of the greatest nation on earth. We need more of them now.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s easy to dismiss Jackson as just a bigoted yokel and a radical in her own conservative ideology. As a media, we tend to focus narrowly on the mustache-twirling outliers, like spotlighting the people who said horribly racist things on Twitter about <a href="http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/147053/">Obama</a> or <a href="http://mondoweiss.net/2013/01/reviews-thirty-muslims.html">Muslims</a> in <em>Zero Dark Thirty</em>, without showing how normative this thinking is. Jackson&rsquo;s not alone in lamenting the downfall of whiteness. Students at Maryland&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/11/white-student-union-towson-university_n_1958868.html">Towson University</a> tried to start a &ldquo;White Student Union,&rdquo; while fliers at <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/17/white-history-month-flier-mercer-university_n_1974736.html">Mercer University</a> advocated for not one but two months dedicated to white cultural awareness. As the flier <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/17/white-history-month-flier-mercer-university_n_1974736.html">argues</a>, &ldquo;There is too much white history to squeeze into one month.&rdquo;</p><p>For these students, a White History Month isn&rsquo;t just about race but about a society that they feel doesn&rsquo;t privilege their identities in the multicultural conversation. They feel left out, even on their own campuses:</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&ldquo;There are African American societies, black student organizations, and Indian heritage associations; however, there is not one white society of engineers, white student organization, or Caucasian heritage association. Why? Because if there are, various individuals will say this is racism.&rdquo;</p><p>We can see concern about the loss of privilege in the conversation about women&rsquo;s rights, where men feel that gender equality means the &ldquo;end of men,&rdquo; and that thinking is increasingly normative in our cultural conversation on race. Jason Kitchen of the <em>Huffington Post</em> provides a telling <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-kitchen/victoria-jackson_b_2619464.html">example</a>:</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&ldquo;Two days before the presidential inauguration, Andy Borowitz, brilliant satirist for <em>The New Yorker</em>, published a piece entitled &lsquo;Fox News to Shut Down for Routine Maintenance Monday Morning at 11:30.&rsquo; Unfortunately, the seemingly obvious jab at the network&#39;s notoriously biased coverage was -- despite including quotes such as &lsquo;for the twelve hours Fox News is off the air on Monday the network will broadcast a continuous photomontage of white people&rsquo; -- misconstrued by some Fox enthusiasts as not only factual, but refreshingly novel.&rdquo;</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&ldquo;People immediately took to Facebook to laud Fox for such a shrewd tactic, and then removed their comments upon the delayed realization that satire can be a cruel lesson. These are the same people who devour sentiments like Jackson&#39;s as sacred truths, and Jackson is but a blip on the radar among her ilk.&rdquo;</p><p>When I read about the GOP getting Jonathan Swift-ed, I posted on Facebook&mdash;in a fit of anger&mdash;that Republicans don&rsquo;t need a White History Month, feeling like everyone would agree with me. Most people were appalled that anyone would suggest such a thing, but one person spoke out by personally messaging me. This person&mdash;we&rsquo;ll call him Guyn Rand&mdash;argued my comments were racially divisive and spoke to the fact that he feels he doesn&rsquo;t have any outlets for his own identity in today&rsquo;s society. In his message, he said that he feels increasingly unwelcome in a modern America that&#39;s leaving guys like him behind. This is, of course, despite the fact that, as a Straight White Male, Guyn has the &ldquo;<a href="http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/">Lowest Difficulty Setting</a>&rdquo; in society. When SWMs start elementary school, clubs and organizations will cater to theur needs, make sure they get ahead and has all the opportunities they need to grow up big and strong. What else are the Boy Scouts for?</p><p>And for people like Guyn, every month is their month. To quote Tim Wise, they just have confusing names like March, April and May. They have holidays that celebrate their monogamous relationships, the Irish, veterans, the birth of the nation and whitewashing Native American genocide. (We even have <em>two</em> devoted to the <a href="http://www.kstrom.net/isk/books/adult/thanksgi.html">latter</a>, because America&#39;s a &quot;go big or go home&quot; kind of place.)</p><p>In all of these instances, the framing is predominantly white, heterosexual and male. Great White Men are the founders of our nation, the conquerors of the continent and even on Christmas, they dress up in jolly red suits and bring our presents. We have one nationally celebrated holiday for black remembrance&mdash;Martin Luther King Jr. Day (or MLK Day)&mdash;and neither Arizona nor DePaul bother to recognize it.</p><p>This shows just how engrained whites are into our nation&rsquo;s rituals and why it&#39;s bedlam for many to suggest otherwise we change the status quo and celebrate others.&nbsp; When we think of our sports heroes, we go to Joe Namath, Babe Ruth and Joe Dimaggio, just as our history books are dominated by our Lincolns, Jeffersons and Washingtons, rather than Crispus Attacks and Frederick Douglass, who are honored as footnotes. In the <em>Lincoln</em> movie, screenwriter Tony Kushner considered Douglass so unimportant to our popular history of abolition that he <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/therootdc/post/lincoln-where-was-frederick-douglass/2012/11/28/212a4e76-3978-11e2-a263-f0ebffed2f15_blog.html">left him out</a> together. Like in <em>The Help</em>, white people <a href="http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/01/artist_reimagines_the_help_poster_white_people_solve_racism.html">solve racism</a>, and black people get to thank them for it&mdash;to smile and nod while someone else gets <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/02/23/how_viola_davis_took_meryl_streeps_oscar/">their Oscar</a>.</p><p>Remember: it took white people to get <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/12/28/could_a_black_director_have_made_django/"><em>Django Unchained</em></a> and <em>Beasts of the Southern Wild</em> made. When we give credence to black filmmakers telling their own stories, it&rsquo;s either Tyler Perry or filmmakers emphasizing the <a href="http://theweek.com/article/index/102645/is-precious-racist">oppression</a> and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/21/movies/21precious.html?_r=0">suffering</a> of the community&mdash;like in 2009&rsquo;s <em>Precious</em>. (The much better <em>Pariah</em> didn&#39;t get nearly the attention, because it wasn&#39;t a sensationalized potboiler but an honest tale of triumph.) The idea of black people building up their own community (gasp!) is so foreign that efforts of community solidarity are often labeled as Affirmative Action or &ldquo;reverse racist&rdquo;&mdash;a charge often thrown at Black History Month.</p><p>A great example of this comes from a 2009 <em>Chicago Tribune</em> story, which profiles Maggie and John Anderson, a local black couple &ldquo;who just spent an entire year trying to contribute all of their money to black-owned businesses&rdquo; and &quot;buy black.&quot; In addition to being dismissed by black community members, who felt that black-owned businesses are inferior to the Caucasians, white business leaders <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-03-09/news/0903090094_1_john-anderson-black-african">cried racism</a>:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Facing them at almost every turn was the insistence from some whites that the Andersons&#39; experiment was an exercise in racism, a charge they reject. They came up with the &lsquo;Empowerment Experiment&rsquo; to help solve persistent ills surrounding &lsquo;underserved communities&rsquo;&hellip;They note that African-Americans carry nearly $850 billion in spending power but that very little of that money circulates through those &lsquo;underserved&rsquo; communities. Most businesses in those neighborhoods are owned by people of other races who live elsewhere.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>The reason that black empowerment is met with such distrust is because people of color are so often marginalized and erased in American society, and empowerment brings visibility to our savage inequalities. Scholars and writers have long pointed out that most white people can barely name five black historical figures&mdash;of which Oprah and Denzel don&rsquo;t count. A recent man-on-the-street video interviewed <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGeMy-6hnr0&amp;noredirect=1">BYU students</a> on Black History month, and many of them couldn&rsquo;t even correctly identify Malcolm X or Rosa Parks. For black people, this would be like not knowing who Lincoln is, but no one seems to have a problem with that. Everyone can name ten white historical figures. Interestingly, many interviewees didn&rsquo;t even know when Black History Month was, and that included some of the black students.</p><p>We can laugh at them and folks like these for being &ldquo;stupid&rdquo; or &ldquo;ignorant,&rdquo; which is the easy response, but isolating individuals as the problem only takes us so far. We have to look at this video as a reflection of a society that doesn&rsquo;t privilege black voices or give weight to black histories, one that deems them worthy of peripheral inclusion but not remembrance. We&rsquo;ll allow black people to be our best friends and support out own narratives but not to tell their own stories&mdash;or listen up when they do. We need to look at this as a sign that our society must be doing more than dedicating one month to black narratives: we need them all year round, in our history books, our novels, our films, our television shows, our comic books and our lives. In America, every day should be Black History Day.</p><p>Until that time, white people have to start being okay with checking our own privileges&mdash;because without recognizing and dismantling hierarchies of oppression, there can be no change. Instead of overrepresenting whites in the media and putting people of color in discursive prison, we need to give others the opportunity to speak, whether they be Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, female, transgender or a gay black Jewish gypsy. They are America, too. They are us. Celebrating Marcus Garvey, Josephine Baker, Sojourner Truth, Bayard Rustin, Assata Shakur, Langston Hughes, Angela Davis, Richard Wright and Garrett Morgan isn&#39;t black history. It&#39;s human history.</p><p>To paraphrase Joseph Campbell, if you only know your own history, you don&rsquo;t know any. Clearly in America we still have a lot to learn. And for the record, I don&rsquo;t think Joseph Campbell asked for a White History Month, either.</p><p><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago for WBEZ.org. Follow Nico on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang" target="_hplink">@Nico_Lang</a> or on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang" target="_hplink">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 08 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/no-we-dont-need-white-history-month-105434 Learning to be black in America http://www.wbez.org/series/race-out-loud/learning-be-black-america-102022 <p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/insert-images/haitian.jpg" title="Kenson Theus (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)" /></p><p><em>During our series on race, we&rsquo;ve heard many stories from locals who&rsquo;ve shared their experiences with race relations in the Chicago region.&nbsp;But we also wanted to hear from people who are new to our area and didn&rsquo;t grow up with the same culture and history. To learn more about what race looks like for someone born in another country, we talked with Kenson Theus,&nbsp;a Haitian immigrant. He shared the story of his struggle to understand what it is to be a black man in the U.S.</em></p><p>My name is Kenson Theus. I am from Haiti. I came to the United States in 2004 on a college scholarship to a small college in Indiana called Goshen College. Growing up in Haiti for the first 22 years of my life and only knowing about the United States through movies and hit songs, obviously I had a lot to learn. A lot of it was a big shock to me.</p><p>Coming from Haiti where 95 percent of the population is black, I was never in a group where I stood out for the color of my skin. To be aware of my color was so new to me. I had to learn it a few different ways. I met some African Americans on campus. They tried to warn me on the kind of racism that was happening in the States in general, but also in the area that we were. For instance, there were places in town that if it&rsquo;s a certain time, maybe you shouldn&rsquo;t go to these places. Then I started to see these patterns with them, as I started to see the difference when you entered the room, the looks. Also, knowing that I&rsquo;m the only black around, trying to convince people that I&rsquo;m not who they think I am, that was the hardest part for me.</p><p>One thing happened to me in Goshen that really changed my whole idea and perspective on race in America. When I was in college I used to do a lot of my work in the computer lab and usually very late at night. One time, I finished writing my paper at about two or three in the morning. So I packed my backpack, threw it on my back and started walking home thinking about how I have to wake up in a few hours. It&rsquo;s cold and I&rsquo;m just thinking of getting home. Then, all of a sudden, I hear this car coming behind me full speed. But as it comes closer it started to slow down a little bit. It was a truck right behind me and the window got rolled down and a beer can full of beer got thrown at me with a lot of names&hellip; a lot of names. Then the truck just sped up past me. I am standing there with beer all over me, really shocked. I look up front and I can see that the truck is just standing there waiting. So all I did was I just turned around and started running nonstop with everything I had towards campus. I ended up spending the night in the computer lab on a couch that was there.</p><p>Coming to Chicago was a big move for me.&nbsp; In a lot of ways I was very hopeful, knowing that at least I&rsquo;ll be in a place where there is more of us, where maybe stuff like that doesn&rsquo;t happen very often. But also, to see that a lot of these same patterns being in the city in a lot of ways on a way bigger scale like how the city is so segregated.</p><p>Two years ago, I married my wife who is a white American from Indiana after being together for ten years.&nbsp; We met in Haiti, but through all this time there&rsquo;s been a lot of criticism, a lot of struggle for us to be together. I have African-American friends, girls specifically, who told me that I got stolen by this white girl. That kind of mentality&hellip;. This is our life that has nothing to do with you, with your color. You are my friend. We are good friends. Why is this line so sensitive? Why is me dating her a problem for you? Or even walking down the streets and the comments [we hear]&hellip; we don&rsquo;t deserve this.</p><p>A lot of people don&rsquo;t know that I&rsquo;m not from here. I don&rsquo;t necessarily identify with the history here. Our history is totally different from the history here. This is the pride of Haiti. For us Haitians, even with the situation we are in now, we took our independence. That&rsquo;s something that is so strong for us. We fight for independence and we took it by force.</p><p>In Haiti right now, and Haitians will tell you this and if you go to Haiti, you&rsquo;ll feel it&hellip; we still have open arms for foreigners in Haiti. My wife has been in Haiti&mdash;since I&rsquo;m here&mdash;way more times than me. She has a lot more friends than me now.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s just to say that we accept everybody.&nbsp; This is what I see when these kind of situations happen. It&rsquo;s like, you don&rsquo;t know me. You don&rsquo;t know my history, how I&rsquo;m connected to this and my life.</p></p> Wed, 29 Aug 2012 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/race-out-loud/learning-be-black-america-102022 Worldview 12.1.11 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-12111 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/episode/images/2011-december/2011-12-01/sickle1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A genetic condition that causes lifelong anemia, sickle cell affects millions worldwide, most commonly people of African descent. In Cameroon and parts of Africa, the disease is highly stigmatized and often attributed to witchcraft. Today, <em>Worldview</em> talks with Michael and Florance Neba, who helped organize the first ever international conference on sickle cell in their native Cameroon. Also, the busiest international crossing in the U.S. is in Detroit.&nbsp; Each year, more than $200 billion worth of trade crosses the border here to Canada, with trucks traveling across a privately-owned, highly congested bridge. Though Michigan politicians want to construct a new, state-of-the-art bridge, a wealthy businessman stands in the way. For <a href="http://wbez.org/frontandcenter" target="_blank"><em>Front and Center</em></a>, WBEZ’s Natalie Moore brings us the story of a bridge project that, so far, is going nowhere.</p></p> Thu, 01 Dec 2011 15:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-12111 Mayoral candidates could split Chicago vote http://www.wbez.org/story/african-american/mayoral-candidates-could-split-chicago-vote <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/chicago flag.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The two prominent Latinos running for Chicago mayor say they won't unify around a consensus candidate as several African-Americans who once eyed the job have done.</p><p>Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle are among a crowded field in a campaign that has a chance of producing Chicago's first Latino mayor. How strongly they run could have a big impact on a tough race with two more widely known candidates, former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.</p><p>Chico, a Mexican-American, is formerly a Chicago schools president and chief of staff to outgoing Mayor Richard Daley. Del Valle, from a Puerto Rican family, currently serves as Chicago's city clerk.</p><p>A runoff would be held if no candidate gets 50 percent on Feb. 22.<br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 11 Jan 2011 21:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/african-american/mayoral-candidates-could-split-chicago-vote Carrie Mae Weems attacks race and gender through photographs http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/carrie-mae-weems-attacks-race-and-gender-through-photographs <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/mae weems kitchen table series.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A photo exhibit tackling race and gender is currently up at the <a href="http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/modernwing/overview" target="_blank">Art Institute of Chicago&rsquo;s Modern Wing</a>.</p><p>The &quot;<a href="http://carriemaeweems.net/galleries/kitchen-table.html" target="_blank">Kitchen Table Series</a>&quot; was created by <a href="http://carriemaeweems.net/" target="_blank">Carrie Mae Weems</a> in 1990. Through 20 black and white photos, Weems chronicled the story of one African-American woman. The woman falls in love, raises a child and is comforted by friends through heartbreak. And all of this plays out around a single kitchen table.</p><p>The black woman in the photos stands-in for universal concerns around family and love. Recently WBEZ&rsquo;s Natalie Moore caught up with Weems, to see how &quot;The Kitchen Table Series&quot; has held up.</p><p><em>Music Button: The Afro Soul-Tet, (Mozamba), from the CD Presenting the Afro Soul-Tet, (Ubiquity)</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Jan 2011 15:50:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/carrie-mae-weems-attacks-race-and-gender-through-photographs