Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Collective Black Guilt Syndrome

With all of my 42 years, I still cannot seem to shake Collective Black Guilt Syndrome (CBGS). For those of you not familiar with CBGS, it’s the misplaced sense of “one bad apple ruins the whole bunch.” An example is when I’m lying in bed, watching TV and the news breaks in with a developing story of a deadly shooting, and the first thing that comes to my mind is, “Oh Lord, I hope the shooter isn’t Black.”

I got to thinking about this after checking out a recent post on the blog, Mes Deaux Cents (MDC). The post detailed the vacuous nature of Sherri Shepherd on The View. According to MDC, Sherri’s a disgrace to Black women everywhere and I tend to agree with her. When Miss Shepherd admitted to not knowing if the world was round or flat, I wanted to reach through my TV set and shake some sense into her. But, why do I feel like Sherri’s representing Black folks/women everywhere? She surely doesn’t represent me.

Earlier today, Loverman caught a promo for today’s Oprah and the topic was a man who videotaped himself physically abusing his wife and before they showed a picture of the abuser, the first thing out of Loveman’s mouth was, “I hope it isn’t a brother?” Unfortunately, it was. A few years ago, when the D.C. area was terrorized by a series of seemingly random sniper shootings, I remember feeling pretty confident that a crazed White man would be identified as the shooter and I, along with many others, were shocked to find out how wrong we were.

The flip side of this syndrome is collective pride folks feel when we bask in the glory of the likes of Oprah, Obama, Malcolm and Martin, but somehow, it’s just never enough, and many of us feel saddled with the vestiges of Willie Horton, welfare moms and video hoes.

I’m sure this syndrome has something to do with how Black folks are represented historically, as well as in mainstream media, but for me, it’s an area where I need to do some personal work. I definitely don’t want to pass this tendency onto my kids. I/we cannot carry the burden for an entire race of people on a daily basis. It’s just too heavy.


Me said...

I feel you mango mama.

There's def a movement in the air. People are finally thinking about this and starting to say it aloud that Black people are not just one big monolithic group. We are not the same. We are not one dimensional and we cannot all be lumped into one category. And likewise we cannot all be responsible for the actions of one bad seed ...and his knucklehead friends.

Not to say that distancing ourselves from the knuckleheads just to protect ourselves from the bad publicity but I think by freeing ourselves from the responsibility may do us all some good.

Loving your posts and ideas!

Mango Mama said...

Hey me! Thanks for stopping by. At your recommendation I'm reading One Drop right now. I learned a few weeks ago that we have a mutual friend, Ms. T. Edwards. When our book club met recently, she mentioned you and I gushed about really digging your blog.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Mango Mama,

This is a great post.

There is a reason that companies advertise on tv. It's because it works. People who are exposed to those commercials have them ingrained in their minds.

The same can be said of Sherri Sheppard. People who watch The View on a regular basis will have Sherri's stupidity ingrained in their minds.

Now what if one of those people is your supervisor at work or the police officer that pulls you or me over?

Will their exposure to Sherri Sheppard cause them to have certain preconceived notions about us?

That's why we have CBGS.

Thanks for the link.

ebony said...

I think women shake their head at Sherri whether Black or white. She's one of those who pay a neighborhood kid to take out her trash for fear of breaking a nail, but I feel you.
The DC snipers completely shook my foundation. According to my grandmother, "no matter how bad black folk may be, at least we ain't no serial killers", I still don't know how to wrap my brain around it.

Will Capers said...

Hey there. Allow me to introduce myself.

My name's Will. I hope all is well. I just found out about the name of this syndrome while doing a search on the feeling I get. Whenever there is news that a crime has been committed by a black person, I cringe. I feel a sense of shame, guilt, disappointment and anger. The worst part about it is that I live in a community that is very small and conservative with a conservative newspaper. So, you get guess that everytime a black person commits a crime it will get reported and blown on the front page.

I did a blog about it last night trying to come up with reasons why this phenomenon occurs. All I did was assume that it was from the absence of esteem, lack of self-knowledge, history of stereotyping and combatting those stereotypes. I'm not sure. All I know is it will take tons of work to get through it or learn to live with it.

Will Capers said...

Also, despite the facts that prove that most crimes in America are committed by whites on a yearly basis, CBGS still rears its ugly head.