R.I.P MJ and The "Only Ones" - African-Americans in the Hamptons
By lainad on June 25, 2009
BlogHer Original Post
RIP Michael Jackson. My thoughts go out to his family.
Admittedly I was never a huge fan, post the Jackson 5 era. My favorite song is "Ben" which always brings tears to my eyes. I actually disliked the man immensely, because as a little black girl I, like probably many others, fantasized about marrying one of the brothers. They were our princes....through a 9 year-old's eyes. But when the plastic surgery and the skin lightening appeared, and much later, the allegations of sexual abuse of young boys, that childhood fantasy seemed distorted. How could I have a crush on a man who clearly hated himself, his blackness.....the same blackness that I had? If he hated himself so much, he would never love me. I felt betrayed, as I imagine other black girls did. As a kid ,when the white boys my age called me an animal and never gave me the time of day, it was the Jackson boys and the fantasies that there were boys, that one day, might like us, was destroyed.
He was a talented man, and a very disturbed man. It's unfortunate that his life was cut short.
Will the Obama's choose the 'Inkwell' in the Hamptons?
There is a buzz among tony New Yorkers who are fortunate enough to escape NYC's blistering summers and retreat to their mini-mansions in the Hamptons: The Obama's are coming? Yea!......or Nay?
According to the recent issue of New York Magazine, it is likely that the Obama family will spend a good portion of August among the elites. Sure, on the President's salary they might not to be able to afford a place of their own, but trust me, there will be someone willing to open their home. After all, it is pretty guaranteed that their charity will be well compensated. Pictures included in luxury publications, Page Six and the society papers? it's all worth it.
But the real question is, on what part of the Island will the Obama's stay? the White side(West Chop) or Oak Bluffs, a town where several prominent African-Americans reside? What has started off as a somewhat pedestrian news item has actually opened a discussion that despite being previously discussed, is still hidden: Self-imposed racial segregation in The Hamptons.
As liberal as it is, the Vineyard is about as racially integrated as a college dining hall—blacks and whites get along fine, but they generally don’t socialize. “There’s not a lot of overlap between black and white,” says radio executive Skip Finley, who started vacationing in Oak Bluffs in 1954 and has been living there full-time for the past decade. “I don’t think anybody’s insulted by it. I’m certainly not.” It’s an arrangement that springs largely from the self-segregating impulse among black Vineyarders, who have come to the island to connect with each other. “We have people here who are black and upscale and racist,” Finley continues. “They don’t want to be around white folks, and they don’t have to.” By choosing to vacation in and around Oak Bluffs, the Obama's would be throwing a spotlight on one of the most demographically unusual towns in America.
What I found really interesting about the article was the discussion of "The Only Ones" - African-Americans who find themselves - and monetarily benefited from - living, working, and being educated in all-white environments, being the the only black face in a sea of white. In doing so, they have been able to gain success in ways that many other blacks have not. But being an 'only one' has it's emotional and psychological price, which is partly why they (allegedly) self-segregate from the rest of the Hamptons:
The Only Ones deal with glass ceilings at work, unfortunate misunderstandings in their neighborhoods, condescension from blacks who think their education or class makes them inauthentic, and identity crises in their kids. When they get to their Vineyard vacation homes, they want to escape that casual, institutional, and intra-black racism and be around people who help them feel less anomalous.
In the new book, Sag Harbor author Colson Whitehead chronicles the story of Benji, an upper middle-class teenage social misfit (his passions and hobbies are deemed as 'uncool' by both his black and white peers) coming of age in the all - black enclave of Sag Harbor, an area on Long Island that has a long history within the African-American population. The book discusses the loneliness and isolation of being different, yet longing for acceptance. The realization that just because one shares the same ethnicity does not mean that we will find similarities.
But blogger Raving Black Lunatic points out the problems within the NY Magazine article, suggesting that in discussing self-segregating blacks in the Hamptons, it actually tries to paint blacks as racist and is slanted towards labeling them as intolerant and classist:
I was also treated to an explanation of how hard life is for bourgie black kids. Apparently, other black people don't want to be your friends when you refuse to hang out with them because they are poor, dark-skinned or too religious. These black folks have the nerve to question your "blackness," which is always an affront even if you admit that you are doing your best to distance yourself from the popular stereotypes about what represents blackness. Imagine that, people don't like you because you think they are inferior. That's a novel concept indeed.
And there is evidence of that in the article that the Only Ones discriminate amongst themselves. Even The Obama's have been scrutinized:
“Obama is more a man of the people,” says a Vineyarder who’s part of black high society. “He doesn’t seem to identify with affluent black people. His wife definitely doesn’t; she is basically a ghetto girl. That’s what she says—I’m just being sociological."
To read some interesting comments, head over to The Huffington Post.
For even more interesting comments like this: "I wonder if HUD has any plans of putting in low income housing and giving Section 8 vouchers." Head on over to American Renaissance.
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