My favorite kind of racist is the “not-racist”. The not-racist is a special and wonderful breed which insists that not only is it not racist, but all the negative and pejorative things they notice about other races comes not from any racist motivation but instead the fact that other races just keep insisting on being inferior. The not-racist also has a constant out against accusations of racism: The Friend. The Friend is a friend of the race which the not-racist is criticizing, and is always a.) successful, b.) intelligent and c.) making the exact lifestyle choices which other members of their race fail to make (and which, in turn, fully explain everything about their supposed “racial inequality”). The Friend is a better person even than the not-racist, stable and hard-working and intrepid and probably not a real person, but whatever. Perhaps most importantly, everything the Friend does is not for their own benefit or edification, oh no. Everything they do is done in order to allow the not-racist evidence that they can’t possibly be racist, and to provide proof that the not-racist knows that of which they speak. The Friend is not a person; the Friend is something akin to a melanin-infused Pokemon that the not-racist can pull out in during any battle, like Pikachu if all the other Pikachus had higher incarceration and lower employment rates than all the other Pokemon.
There’s a movement afoot to promote black patronization of black businesses, not much different than what any number of ethnic groups ghettoized into ethnic enclaves have done for centuries. According to not-racist Amy Alkon, this is just plain wrong. And she’s got a reason why:
Oh, please. A friend of mine is a black fashion designer who started with nothing and built her business herself, selling clothes out of the back of her station wagon after she couldn’t afford the living expenses in New York City and had to turn down a scholarship to F.I.T. It isn’t skin color that makes the difference, it’s enterpreneurial spirit and a burning desire to make it; enough so that you’re not afraid to fail and pick yourself up and start again when and if you do.
I choose you, Negrochu! The most absurd conversation I’ve ever overheard was at a restaurant in a hotel. One person was remarking to the other that racism didn’t exist any more because it was outlawed in 1964; the temptation to stab myself in the eye with the fork was only abated by the fact that she would probably take it as an indication that minorities were crazy, violent savages and I couldn’t do that to the next black person she was going to undertip.
Alkon’s not-racism is particularly insidious, because it assumes that every day is Conveniently Do Away With All Of History Day. The basic presumption of not-racism is that racism is clearly limited to whatever it is that’s not what they’re doing (i.e., it’s only racism if it’s lynching, it’s only racism if it’s explicitly stated, it’s only racism if it’s the third Tuesday in July and raining), and as such, the obvious explanation for racial inequality must be the moral failure of the people alleging it. Segregationists could at least admit they wanted other races treated inequally because they thought those races were inferior; not-racists look at inequality and just assume it’s what other races want because those races are inferior.
There’s a particular form of not-racism that occurs with the black community, as well. More accurately, there’s the not-racist argument that the idea of a “black community” is illegitimate. You see, any attempt to define the black experience in America must come with the realization that the experience is fundamentally defined by external racism; it must therefore be denied at all costs. This is when there’s a positive attempt to define the community; when “black people” as a whole can have anything negative assigned to them, there is a community. And that community is making a clear and undeniable statement that it’s decided to fuck itself up because it’s a bunch of stupid dumbheads. Unlike, you know, The Friend.
Not-racism places the black community in a lose-lose situation. They are not allowed to have a history or an identity unless they do something wrong, in which case they are intractably bound each to the other for every single misstep and bad decision made by any of them.
Black Americans seeking out black businesses, particularly in light of white flight, ghettoization and the general prevalence of racist attitudes, is on balance a good thing for all involved. However, whatever the merits or detriments of the idea, there’s absolutely no point in debating them based on the definition of proper behavior as “what this one person I know did because she’s black”.