This was e-mailed to me from Michael over at Whine & Jeez (love the title). He adds a bit more perspective to black and white issues. With age comes wisdom.
I tried to post a comment to that entry but my character length was too great. Here's my response:
Black man: "Hey white boy!" (completely fine)
I don't think it's fine. It's meant as a term of denigration. You know it. They know it. Don't allow someone to characterize you that way. It's wrong.
I'm somewhat older than you and it gives me longer perspective since I've watched the situation evolve since I was a child in the sixties.
The term 'boy' was originally applied by whites toward black men. It was meant as an emasculating slight. You can actually hear it in many old movies, including classics like Casablanca. It's current manifestation, white boy, began in the late sixties, if I remember right - though it may go back farther than that, and was meant to return the disrespect.
The use of the term 'nigger' by blacks toward other blacks is also an older phenomenon than you might think. It was originally used by them toward each other because that's how white people referred to them. They simply picked up the term and used it. By the 50's and 60's is was being used as a term of defiant self definition; we niggers versus those whites. In a sense, it's never lost its defiant cache. Similar to the term brother or brotha.
Lately, say the last ten years or so, there's been controversy within the black community regarding its use. It's seen - rightly so, IMAO - as a throwback, racist term. Something that needs to be eliminated.
Coming from the longer perspective, I'm actually impressed with how far the black community has come in this country considering the baggage they started with. When I was a child there essentially no integration of the races in our society. There was a black community and a white community. The two only mixed when absolutely necessary. They certainly did not share neighborhoods. They never socialized with one another. The disparity in income and education was enormous. I remember it clearly.
I also agree completely that Jesse Jackson and others often play the race card and race baiting game unfairly and do a lot of damage when they do it. I also think it's just as transparent to many blacks as it is to us, especially the middle class blacks. I also think as better education and economic gains spread throughout the black community it's going to slowly fade away. The younger generation of black leaders, Barack Obama for instance, sound just like any other politician these days and are often implicitly critical of those playing the race card unfairly.
It's going to take to time to heal the deep wounds and overcome the deep and very real damage done to the black community in the US, but it's happening. Slowly. But it's happening.
For a bit of reference, I ranted here because of a thoughtless post here. (scroll down to "Neglecting the bigot vote".) One note I'd like to add to the "homophobe" claim is the popularity of Jeff over at Beautiful Atrocities. He says he feels left out by Republicans because he's gay but feels left out by Gays because he's Republican. I think he feels left out because he hasn't been invited by Homespun Bloggers yet (joke). I'm proud of Jeff for coming out of the closet and admitting to being both gay and Republican! If you haven't read him you should.
51 minutes ago