Get Back, Black

“If you’re black, get back.
If you’re brown, get down.
If you’re yellow, you’re mellow.
If you’re white, you’re right.”

Those are the words of a little jingle I learned when I was young. I shared it with a white Alabama woman, maybe ten years younger than me, and her jaw dropped. She’d never heard the ditty and she was appalled. One, that she as a product of the Deep South, had never heard the tune. And two, that there was such a tune.

Honey, I said to myself, there’s probably a lot more you don’t know about what black folks have to deal with in the South. Not having to deal with things like that is one of the benefits of white privilege.

I saw something on BET yesterday (yes, Reggie R., I do watch BET TV sometimes). It was part of BET’s Meet the Faith program. Their topic, Anything But Black, stirred up some facinatingly old school results.

Here’s a quote from the show’s transcript (italics mine):

Following a montage of interviews about challenges some young mixed-race New Yorkers face and a review of a social experiment that observed young black children choosing White dolls over Black dolls because the children said White was good and Black was bad prompted another lively discussion. Reverend Bryant says he’s troubled more people don’t realize men, all men, originate from the same continent. ”I’m absolutely African American and the reality is if man originates from Africa whether you are from Ireland, Switzerland or Greenland there is African inside you.” Coleman added, “Race isn’t biological, race is political”

Ahh, the black doll, white doll experiment, I remember it well. Sadly, so do too many black mothers and fathers. I was shocked to see the little black boys and girls choose the white doll again and again. Dressed exactly like the black doll, made from the same mold, but considered ugly, bad, undesirable.

I don’t agree with everything the minister (Rev. Bryant, quoted above) said about racial origins, but one thing is for sure, race isn’t biological (and it’s not biblical either). Unfortunately, in America, the results of the human genome experiment came a few generations too late.

How will the damage to the self image of black children be repaired? I really don’t know. But it’s clear we need another ditty to which to march. And it wouldn’t hurt to start a few conversations of reconciliaton across the color line–speaking the truth (about my American life, my children, my hopes, my disappointments …) in love and with commitment.