Blacks and nostalgia

In another thread, a poster was talking about how he liked the way things were better in the “good old days”. In passing, he acknowleged he was a white male and that non-whites and women had things a lot worse back then. It reminded me of a magazine article I once read that was talking about nostalgia and the writer said (again in passing) that blacks don’t have the sense of nostalgia that whites do.

To me, a white person, this makes perfect sense. I can’t see any historical period that a black American could look back on and think “those were the good old days.” In fact most eras could be recalled by terms like bad, worse, really bad, or you don’t want to know.

But again, I’m just guessing when I imagine what the black experience is like. So I’d like to ask, are their historical periods that blacks look back on favorably? Even if the overall situation was bad, were there historical periods when certain things were looked on as being better? Or is it really the case that black people figure there’s no sense in looking back?

Everyone plays that game where they imagine how it would be if they lived back in the olden days. When I keep my present identity, it isn’t fun. But if I pretend I’m a white guy then suddenly I can look on history objectively.

I know it has presented itself as a barrier to my full enjoyment of our country’s history. Being proud of a country’s heritage means ignoring what was done to your ancestors. It also means pretending that all the badness from back then is now meaningless since it happened so long ago. You aren’t supposed to harbor ill feelings. You’re supposed to forgive and forget since it didn’t happen to you.

When I consider history, I always make myself a hero. I’m not a meek field slave. I’m Harriet Tubman. I’m not sitting in the back of the bus. I’m Rosa Parks. I’m not scared of no whitey. I’m going to vote with Medgar Evers! When I pretend like this, then it makes enjoying US history easier. But I don’t see how it’s any different than a white guy pretending he’s Thomas Jefferson or a white woman pretending she’s Queen Elizabeth or Joan of Arc. You seek out who you want to identify with in history and try not to think about the rest.

I have often heard this theme when people talk about blues music. Certainly there are black blues fans in the rural south, but in most other places, a blues audience will be mostly non-black - even in places that have a black population. The reason often given is that the blues reminds a lot of black people of a time they would rather forget.

Also a lot of the nostalgia I see for 1950’s and 1960’s R&B, early black rock (Liitle Richard, Chuck Berry), and Motown music is by the white audience as well.

Having founded the DooWop(music from about 1955-63) Society of SoCal I have some insights on this. It is not related to past racial problems, by & large. Most blacks young & old favor being “hip” & up to date & “with it.” Spending time on music from 40-50 years ago doesn’t fit. BB King is glad for his present success, but notes his crowds are almost all white.

have you ever heard the African-American equivalent of a music of your life, golden oldies or classic rock radio station? In all the large cities I’ve lived in, and all the places I’ve travelled through, I have never heard a radio station that plays exclusively classic funk, blues, or even old-school East Coast rap; excepting a few urban AM stations that play mostly old black gospel music, radio aimed at an exclusively African-American sudience usually just whatever the most popular music is now. BET doesn’t air shows featuring 1980s or 1960s artists, unlike VH1.

There’s no shortage of white folks who like big band music, crooners, oldies rock, 1960s-era folk, and 1970s and 1980s mullet rock. I wonder why, as doctordoowop says, “most blacks young and old favor being hip and up to date and with it.”

On a somewhat related note, fashion trends seem much shorter for blacks than for whites. 1970s-style preppies were around for about 20 years. The current neo-preppie look – the Abercrombie and Fitch wardrobes – have been popular for about 10 years, and picked up slowly where the Izod shirts faded off. Today’s goths and punks look no different than those in 1980, and heshers and groders have been wearing their work boots, jean jackets and black concert t-shirts since the mid-70s. However, in the inner city, fashion trends seem to appear and disappear quickly. It’s as if one week everybody is wearing 8-ball jackets, and six months later they’re all at Goodwill. Maybe the longest trend was Raiders gear, and that lasted about three, maybe four years. I wonder is FUBU will still be around at the end of the year…

elmwood-your mentioning of BET raises this question for me ,a lover of the “roots” of music, which factually includes many black performers from the 30’s to late 50’s ,even into the 60’s. Being a collector of vintage music videos I know what’s out there. “Nat” King Cole had a variety show for a few years that featured ,besides Cole, the music stars of the day. I had hoped to see this on BET;nope. Johnson,BET owner, uses as his reason for focusing on today’s rap & hip hop , "nothing else sells. " I defer to Johnson, he must be right, unfortunately.

I’m amazed we’re having this conversation. Has nobody noticed the recent surge in nostalgia for the 60s and 70s in black culture? BET may claim only rap sells, but you cannot miss the influence of funk and doo-wop on music and entertainment catering to black audiences.

Oh, you’d be surprised at how much nostalgia there is among elderly blacks in the South- just not for the same things (or for the same reasons) as whites.

I’ve NEVER met a black person who wanted to return to the days of Jim Crow and the KKK, obviously. But I have met many who have fond memories of the way their communities were in the days of segregation, and who feel that something precious was lost when the laws were changed. Nobody’s reminisces fondly about George Wallace and Lester Maddox, but there are mahy who feel that, in some ways, their lives and communities WERE much better and happier in an earlier time.

A few years ago, there was a documentary about Tulsa Oklahoma, called “Going Back to T-Town,” which illustrated what I’m talking about. As morally repugnant as segregation was, it forced black Americans in many cities to form close, tight-knit communities. Since laws forced all blacks, regardless of socio-economic class, to live in the same part of town, you’d see black doctors living next door to black maids and janitors, black businessmen living next door to black sanitation men. The presence of black professionals gave these communities leaders and positive role models. There were thriving black-owned retail stores, movie theaters and restaurants. Elderly black folk who remember their old communities often express pride in what they had and what they were able to accomplish.

I don’t idealize the situation, nor do latter-day blacks who remember the way things were. Nobody wants to return to those days. But desegregation DID have a price. Once laws were changed, and prosperous professional black people could move and live wherever they wanted, most of them left their communities behind and settled in more affluent areas that had been off-limits before.

That’s understandable. It’s good. But in many cases, the communities they left behind were devastated as a result. Many of these communities were left with only their poorest residents, without the professionals, the leaders, the positive role models, the businesses or the respected institutions they used to have.

Again, I emphasize that NO black people today look back and say, “Jim Crow was great. I wish they’d bring back lynching and cross-burning and segregation.” But you WILL meet elderly black folks in many parts of the South who’ll shake their heads and say, “This USED to be a wonderful part of town. This USED to be a blessed community. I don’t know what happened to it.”

Most black Africans that I have met say that things are worse now than when they were kids.

But I only have a small sample to base this on.

Little Nemo, there was a thread on this Board about two years ago. The title may have been Let’s go back to the 1950s or something along those lines. There were many replies about innocent, simpler times.

I replied with what else was happening in the 1950s especially about the budding Civil Rights movement. If I recall correctly, my reply was sort of glossed over a being a downer.

I’ve learned my lesson since then. It seems that some people just want to remember the good times and forget that, for one segment of the population, at least, times weren’t really that great.


So what’s so great about now? Maybe I’m young and naive, but I definately have nostalgia about that time. Of course, government mandated segregation was wrong, but I wish the idea racial seperation didn’t become a profanity during its demise. It’s better than the integratoin hypocrisy we have now. You grow up reading about the civil rights movement and how it ended racism and watching T.V. shows where blacks and whites work and live together without distrust or animosity, you go through the public school system reading leftist literature assignments, cultivating ideals of racial harmony, laughing about how ignorant everyone was so long ago back in the old, OLD days, and graduate ready to be accepted into the mainstream world who will appreciate and respect you for your accomplishments, only to get an adulthood slap in the face. Nothing has changed, and the majority of the population who doesn’t look like you will at best, only grudgingly “put up” with your presence. At least back then, you didn’t even entertain ideas of being respected by whites, you just lived and flourished among your own people, and was happy. I look at old episodes of Amos & Andy (about which the NAACP must have had a HUGE log in their butt’s to have found something offensive) and wish I lived in such a time, where I could walk through a bustling urban neighborhood full of affluent professionals and not find that the only other black faces are homeless. When black professionals didn’t run off to the white world only to become sporadic drops who end up clustering together anyway in the office community while being distrusted and condemned for doing so, and crippling their many previous communities by sheer absence, making “black neighborhood” synomous with “bad neighborhood” in the modern American lexicon.

pizzabrat-good point about black professionals crippling their previous communities by leaving their neighborhoods. Thomas Sowell, conservative writer & professor, says this is an unwanted & far from "good "result of desegragation.

RickJay- all those doowop & oldies shows done by PBS TV in Pittsburgh have a ridiculous racial breakdown-the audience looks about 98% white. “Back in the day” the audiences at those shows -by Alan Freed et al were at least 50% black.

Well, let’s just kill all the white people, no matter how innocent they might be, even if they just came here from Iceland and never had any ancestors at all in the USA. Then everything will be AAAAAALLLLLLL better!

Well, yes, because that’s exactly what monstro was advocating.

Nice try, monstro, but Dogface saw right through you.

As a woman, I have a tough time feeling particularly nostalgic about any era. I think women are better off now than they have been yet and things will continue to improve (at least on my optimistic days I think this).

So I can absolutely understand if others feel the same way.

The only thing I regret is not seeing all of the baseball players I’ve heard about all my life. (Baseball nostalgia is the one type I love.)


Does Sowell live in a black neighborhood?

What the hell is wrong with you? How does what you said connect with what monstro said in any way?

davidw-doubt it. White wife, & is a professor at Stanford. From Harlem, so he is guilty of what he decries, good point.

Let certain people tell it, there were no white people here when there was slavery or Jim Crow or Indian extermination. The white people of today are descended from people who arrived AFTER all that shit happened. In fact, the white people of today tried to HELP the poor colored people, and their efforts failed through no fault of their own (dumb nigras!). I think we should grant automatic sainthood to every single white person alive today. If only there were enough trees in the world so that each one could have a real cross to bear, instead of just a figurative one.

(At least my sarcasm is warranted. Please learn how to read and receive information so that you don’t look like a crazy ass.)

Didn’t Iceland ban blacks and Jews from immigrating for some while?