Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Crackas and Coons: Interracial Dissonance and Hope for the Future

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Crackas and Coons: Interracial Dissonance and Hope for the Future

Article excerpt

Introduction

June 15, 2011, I boarded an airplane leaving Dallas, TX headed toward Cleveland, OH. As I walked through the aisle to take my seat, I noticed that almost every European American's eyes were fixed on me; the usual "Black person present" scene in situations where White and Black people unknown to one another share physical spaces. Their various eyes read curiosity--of many sorts--anxiety, and annoyance at my presence. Worse than the reality of relative obscurity that I found myself at the center of, I became acutely aware of the dissonance felt by the European American passengers around me. Standing just over five feet and four inches tall, although not quite five-five, weighing about 150 lbs., wearing glasses and carrying a laptop bag full of books, few would describe me as threatening. Yet, the White man and White woman seated next to me, apparently strangers to one another also, fumbled over their words with me as we arranged ourselves in our seats. They all but jumped to answer minor questions, their eyes meeting mine for only short spurts of time. The European flight attendants acted in much the same awkwardness and discomfort when serving me the drinks and snacks that come complimentary on most American airlines. To the contrary, however, the interactions between the White attendants and my White seatmates seemed fluid, comfortable, and essentially effortless.

Fast-forward about three hours, and I am sitting in a restaurant with my close friend who had picked me up from the airport. It was just past 3:00pm, and therefore past the lunchtime rush. The restaurant was sparsely peopled and we had our choice of many dining tables or booths. As the host sat us, my friend objected to the selected seating and opted to sit toward the far end of the restaurant. The host obliged, although confused, sat us, and left us to view the menus. As he walked away, my friend explained to me, "I'm sorry, but I don't feel like being around White people," through a look of combined exhaustion and repugnancy. The irritation that I felt from my uncomfortable three-hour-long flight evaporated with sudden immediacy at the revelation that both sides, Black and White, feel much the same about the other. My African American friend had just expressed much of the same sentiment that an airplane full of White people had demonstrated to me just a few minutes prior; only we were confined to an airplane and had not the luxury of changing seats.

Rather than a revelation, what my friend gave me, unbeknownst to her, was confirmation of my own estimation regarding the layered coexistence between Black and White people, layering unknown to any other two ethnic groups due to many historical events, and also distinct cultural dialectics. I have described the quality of Black-White relationships as one of interracial dissonance (Chandler, 2010), defined as feelings of physical, psychological, and social disconnect resulting in divergent ideas and intentions which serve to order the phenomenological properties that shape the perceptions and interactions of people in cross-racial situations. Where the ultimate humanitarian goal seeks human understanding and progress, the precarious nature of interracial interactions between those born of African ancestry and those born of European ancestry is one still requiring serious and sensitive consideration.

In the particular work that introduced the term, for instance, focus was placed on the ramification of underutilization of mental healthcare in the Black community stemming from the collective realization that our ways of living and our self-strivings differ significantly from Whites' both in their concerns for us and their own cultural tendencies. The dissonance felt by an overwhelming number of the Black community has led to disengagement from other Eurocentric systems as well, most noticeably the schools. Where Terrell and Terrell (1981) have coined the term of cultural mistrust to describe distrust of White people based on a history of discrimination and prejudice in the sectors of education, interpersonal relations, business, politics, and law, interracial dissonance contends that the tumultuous associations that Black and White people share extend beyond social and political equality to cultural and even spiritual fields. …

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