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The Happy Black

Racism? What racism?

by Attica Scott

"Many white people do not understand how Negroes can laugh at the stupid indignities so often heaped upon them, from high to low, in this American country of ours...Maybe it is this wry laughter that has kept us going all these years, from slavery's denial of the draught of freedom up to the Washington airport's denial of a glass of milk. Maybe it is just a way of saying, 'To defeat us you must defeat our laughter.'"
—Langston Hughes, 1948

The Angry Black has left the building. And in her place is The Happy Black.

Happy is an interesting character. The Happy Black often does not see herself in the struggle with other blacks because racism and discrimination don't happen to her. And when she does mistakenly think that someone has discriminated against her, she explains it away as simply "overreacting." Happy's philosophy is that most blacks have made it and that there are only a few blacks who lack ambition and make the race look bad.

And what's this thing about race and being black? Those are terms that Happy doesn't accept because she doesn't see color. If we were all one shade of off-white, then Happy would be more comfortable in her own skin. For Happy, it's black people who separate themselves from white people because of skin color.

Not only that, she has no need to be called African-American because she doesn't even know if her ancestors came from Africa or not. And if they did, that was a long time ago and she doesn't have a clue as to what life was or is like in Africa. African ancestry or heritage is not part of her culture or life. Happy is part of this new One America and that's all that matters.

But on occasion Happy will make observations that are out of character for her. For example, last month she noticed that there were absolutely no other blacks working in the executive offices of her new job. She had to catch herself for even noticing because it was not like her to pay attention to those kinds of things. But she overlooked it and never commented to anyone.

Why should she? It's up to blacks to apply for jobs that they'll definitely get if they are good enough, willing to work hard and to prove themselves. Beyond that, there aren't that many blacks interested in high-level professions, so it's difficult to find any good ones, anyway.

Yesterday, Happy had lunch with the top executive at her new job, Mr. Mann. Mr. Mann was known for his absolutely hilarious jokes that were at other people's expense. During lunch, he told Happy one of those jokes. Happy laughed and Mr. Mann told her how pleased he was that she laughed at his jokes. He wondered why more of Happy's people didn't loosen up and laugh at his well-meaning humor.

Well, Happy didn't know why more of the blacks didn't find humor in Mr. Mann's jokes—jokes that were often filled with racist overtones, sexist innuendo and homophobic stereotypes. They were, after all, only jokes. She thought that most blacks should encourage Mr. Mann and tolerate him because of his position of power.

Not really paying attention, Mr. Mann asked Happy if she'd just said something to him. No, she said, smiling. I was just thinking out loud.

Happy is also one of those folks that you won't see too involved with groups that work to uplift the African-American community. This is an exercise in futility for her. She doesn't see the need for such groups because they only continue to segregate our community. And although most seem to be working for change, according to Happy, there's no more change left to be made.

Yes, there have been a few recent isolated incidences of direct and public acts of racism, but she and we can live with that. After all, those acts didn't affect her or most of us directly. A cross burning in Halls, graffiti sprawled on faith institutions, desegregation of our public schools only after a court order; that all happened in the 1990s. That was then and this is now. Get over it!

I am,
The Happy Black

March 1, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 9
© 2001 Metro Pulse