Rarely does a man surrender control of his car’s musical play list to a female passenger. When it happened, I was surprised.
But as I sat staring questionably at my friend’s collection of Eminem albums, the privilege didn’t last long.
“Hand me that Eminem Show,” he said. Quite offended, I voiced my refusal to listen to a man who had defamed black women with racist lyrics. My argument was met with his amused, “Here we go. That happened a long time ago, plus that’s just the way he raps.”
Was the “invisible man” really this close?
Ralph Ellison dealt with this issue of invisibility a long time ago. He wrote that blacks become metaphorically invisible because of the blindness of whites. This sightless handicap comes on the heels of the proliferation of black stereotypes. A person can’t see what their prejudice won’t allow them to see. Consequently, black people are faded into an abstract place of nothingness.
Time and again this has become the case in black culture, particularly with the arts. Several artists have been drawn to our cultural aesthetics. Although many dance, sing and dress like us, they don’t want to be us.
Vanilla Ice and Justin Timberlake are the worst examples of art imitating life. One faked his upbringing to validate his presence in rap music while the other associates himself with the people at his convenience.
Therefore, I can reasonably say that they have found a greater success at performing minstrel vaudeville. Their blindness unveils their real perception of black people as well as their self-serving interest in our art.
Millions have become involved in our artistic contributions out of pure passion. Yet, when sightless people join in, they adopt aspects of our culture that they observe through jaded goggles. This opens them up to assimilation into their own misconception of our norms which are often stereotypes. If we never emerge from this place of nothingness to challenge sightlessness by regulating the portrayal of our identity, these same millions could potentially do a lot of damage.
Monica Harden is a senior magazine production student from Hockley, TX. She is an assistant editor for the opinions section. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.