Actual words that came out of my radio this morning:
“A lot of my closest friends in college were actually clear.”
Really? Are you serious? Don’t make me reach into that radio and smack you! (I know how–after all, some of my “closest friends” are “urban!”)
(For those of you still wondering what the hell I’m talking about: instead of using the words white and black to describe people, he was saying “Urban” and “Clear.”)
The first time I encountered the terms “Urban” and “Clear” used in such a “creative” fashion, was listening to Notorious VOG & his crew in the morning on Hot 97 Boston. I started listening to the station because they often have the best Hip Hop, R & B and Dancehall on the dial. Unfortunately if you wanna hear that during your morning commute you have to put up with some assholes talking shit. (Why do these radio stations think we want to hear talk in the morning? The only thing I wanna hear in the morning is some bumpin music to help me channel my road-rage!)
At first I liked Notorious, he had some good things to say about taking responsibility for your children and not being a deadbeat dad. Since I’ve got two no-show baby-daddies that was a message I was ready to hear.
But then one day he started going off on how he’d rather go to a movie with “clear” folk, because “urban folk just didn’t know how to act”.
“Clear?” “Urban?” Really?
Now on the face of it, this actually makes a lot of sense–who wouldn’t rather go to a movie with clear folk–after all, if a tall “clear” person sits down in front of you–no problem–you can see right through them!
But–naw–I don’t think that’s what he meant…
Over time I saw that this usage of the coded language of “urban” and “clear” is a hallmark of this show. Each time Nororious or Lady V drops the word “clear” there’s that slightly naughty tone to their voice. Exactly like a white person chortling over his new code for the N-Word.
Now I find the term “Urban,” used to refer to African Americans (as it invariably is on this show) problematic: what, are you saying everyone in urban areas are black? Or that all black people live in the city? Doesn’t that erase all the other POC in the community? (The white people in the city being already invisible).
But whatever, that’s y’all. If y’all want to call yourself, “Urban” who am I to tell you you can’t?
On the other hand, I have to call you out for calling me “Clear.” I don’t care how many “clear” friends you have, or how better you think we behave in the movies–when you use that word you sound blatantly racist.
Some people think that because they have been the subject of racism, they cannot be racist. Just like some people think that because they have black (or “urban”) friends, they can’t be racist.
Anyone can be racist.
Now I’m not saying Notorious VOG and his crew are racist–but they sure sound racist.
I don’t have a problem with them talking about race on the radio–even saying ignorant things sometimes–but if you can’t talk about race without using code words, you need to re-think what you’re saying.
We do have words to discuss race. As imperfect and inadequate as the words black and white are, (after, all, how many people have you met in this country who are truly black? Most American “black” people fall somewhere on the spectrum of browns.) they are common parlance of this era, and you should be able to use them without offending people so long as the context isn’t offensive.
Now I’m not a big fan of the word white to describe my skin color or my people: what am I–a wall? A blank piece of paper? A sheet? (Thank you KKK for giving bedding negative connotations.)
I find it extremely frustrating that no word in the English language adequately describes the tan-peachy-pinkish color that I see when I look at my hands!
In the sense that my skin color was so ubiquitous in Europe during the formation of the language that they didn’t feel they needed a word for it, it does, in a way, make it clear–invisible, assumed unless stated otherwise by a white racist culture. But I still reject the term.
I am not invisible! You do not have the power to rob me of what verbal pigment I posses.
When I look in the mirror I see myself in color. I have substance. I am not invisible.
I am not clear.