Here in America, where white privilege is the status quo, where the white community is well represented in any and every given set of opportunities, we have made the public choice to ignore racial disparity. The Supreme Court ruled that white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision endorsed in a lower court. This latest ruling on employment practices with respect to racial disparity will make it considerably more difficult to prove discrimination because of the condition that it must be intentional. Accidental racial discrimination is okay.
In a split decision the highest court decided that the city of New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam simply because no African-Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to receive promotions based on the results. The city said that it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities. However, on behalf of the majority of five justices, Anthony Kennedy wrote that fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer’s reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions. Mr. Kennedy was joined by John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence “wouldn’t spit on the black community if it was on fire” Thomas.
On behalf of the minority of opposing justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the white firefighters had no vested right to promotion nor have any other non white person received promotions in preference to them. Ms. Ginsburg wrote that the court should have assessed the starkly disparate results of the exams against the historical and ongoing inequality in the New Haven fire department. As of 2003, she said, only one of the city’s twenty one fire captains was black. Justices David Souter, Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens signed onto the dissent. Ms. Ginsburg predicted that the court’s ruling will not have staying power. Unfortunately, it should be pretty obvious that racial discrimination has a lot more staying power than Ms. Ginsburg gives it credit for.
Karen Torre, the attorney for the white firefighters, said that the ruling is a sign that individual achievement should not take a back seat to race or ethnicity and employers cannot bow to politics and pressure and lobbying by special interest groups or act to achieve racial quotas. White firefighter Frank Ricci said the ruling proved that if you work hard, you can succeed in America. I find the implication that black firefighters don’t work hard like their white counterparts a first class example of the typical racial rhetoric that justifies the perpetual second class status of the black community.
As Ms. Ginsburg said we should not be so quick to discard the historic context of what our system built on a foundation of race preference that for centuries have benefited the white community has wrought. In an attempt to appear utterly race neutral we are ready to ignore the past and the current thinking that somehow if we simply stay the course the racial divide will heal itself. But when given a prime opportunity to see that a hands-off approach is not working, that a system of opportunity based on the one consideration of a test score, will exempt black people from qualifying, we chose to support racially skewed systems that favor white privilege.
Essentially, Mr. Kennedy wrote that fear of the future, that the city of New Haven could be sued over the fact that no black candidate qualified for promotion, is not reason enough to throw out the test. But then Mr. Kennedy and his cohorts in the majority make a ruling that is based on fear of the future. The white firefighters feared the fact that they could lose their advantage in a promotion system that could have been more statistically racially neutral.
The talk that this ruling proves that hard work leads to success in America is nothing but talk. There is no proof that the white firefighters worked any harder than the black ones other than a numerically higher result on a test. If someone was to give a test on Chicago trivia I’m pretty sure no one would say that a Chicagoan doing better than a Houstonian is proof that people in Chicago work harder. There are other factors that should be taken into consideration that are simply forgotten for the sake of expediency.
But one thing this ruling does prove is that we as a national community are willing to disregard the historical context of race discrimination on an entire community in order to protect the advantage of individuals in the white community. Many people claim that they want to see an end to racial discrimination. However, the day that our gross condition of disparity along racial lines becomes statistically insignificant won’t happen as long as we continue to protect instances of gross racial disparity.
People who read this blog on a regular basis know that I don’t particularly care for a lot of high profile black people in our midst. More often than not the high profile black celebrities that have found economic success are too absorbed with finding even more economic success than with finding a connection to the lesser fortunate black community. It is my observation that black people who have developed a name worth recognizing or who have accumulated a little wealth under their belt become more obsessed with the protection of the wealth rather than the protection of the traditional black community. Maybe this sounds like sour grapes and can be summarized, or minimized, as little more than jealousy. But there is a social component that gets lost with such a dismissive attitude.
At the moment, despite the economy, I have an excellent job. I have healthcare. I’m able to save a major portion of my paycheck. In the past year or so we’ve managed to save enough money saved to buy the family a used minivan with cash and a multifamily house, albeit a fixer upper. We have exercised personal responsibility and have managed to earn a small slice of the American pie. So why should I care about other people in the black community who don’t have it as well as I do?
I like to think that my concern for the black community comes from having a social conscience despite being in an America where we are constantly being programmed to protect our version of capitalism at any and all costs. In order to minimize any responsibility for the condition of the black community we constantly berate black people for not having the wherewithal to lift themselves out of whatever supposedly led to our lack of individual opportunity in a social system rooted in institutionalized racial discrimination on a scale that impacts a major portion of the black community. It is popular rhetoric that black people need to get an education, but even well educated black people have difficulty finding jobs compared to our white counterparts. It is a modern cliché to say that black people need to work ourselves out of our situation. But on the flipside of that coin black people have more difficulty finding employment than our white counterparts.
It is easy to dismiss the call to bring attention to these facts as nothing but sour grapes. It is easy to ignore the plight of the black community just as it is easy to ignore the plight of anyone who is in need of help. When we divorce ourselves of any responsibility for the next guy it is easy to say “get a job” to the unemployed, “get off the street” to the homeless, “suck it up” to the depressed, “pick yourself up by your bootstrap” to anyone who may need help, or “show some personal responsibility” to anyone when we don’t have a lick of empathy.
We have been taught that some of the greatest heroes in world history are people who went out of their way to show compassion for their fellowman. Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Mahatma Gandhi, Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, the man known as Jesus the Christ, Mohammed, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, Oskar Schindler, and many, many, more. And consequently some of the greatest evils of the world have been people who have absolutely no compassion for others. Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Baby Doc, Poulpot, Jim Jones, Saddam Hussein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Timothy McVeigh, J. Edgar Hoover, Benedict Arnold, and their like. And yet, with respect to the black community, the dominant community could not display any less compassion and still consider themselves human.
Often times it’s questionable whether we show more compassion for a single speckle breasted hooked toed owl or the entire black community. When it was speculated that dog food manufacturers in China were responsible for the deaths of so many Fidos and Spots, people here in America wanted to go to war. When Michael Vick was accused of killing dogs in the dog pound in back of his house people wanted to give him the death penalty. However, when boot camp guards kill black children for not running we find the entire affair understandable and the guards are without fault. Say what you will but it should be obvious that a lot of people don’t want to give black people the kind of compassion we have for a loser dog.
This all might sound like nothing but sour grapes. But unfortunately, it also sounds like life for the black community. If more people had more compassion for black people they might be able to tell the difference between the two.
A coworker came by my desk to give me the news.
Hey Peacemaker, have you heard?
Farrah Fawcett died today.
Oh yeah, I heard about it a little while ago when I was listening to NPR.
So did you hear the other part?
The other part? What’s that?
Michael Jackson had a heart attack and stopped breathing.
Over Farrah Fawcett???
And then I noticed other people in the office were having their own version of the same conversation in the cubes nearby and throughout the office. Michael Jackson was dead. Farrah picked a hell of a day to kick the bucket. The last thing a self important person like Ms. Fawcett needed was to be upstaged by the death of Michael Jackson. I went back to work.
It might be sad to say but I really could not care any less. Michael Jackson was the very worst example of a black person who really hated being black. While most self hating black people would be content to simply say that they have transcended race, Michael Jackson was the one black person that actually decided to do something about it. Michael Jackson stared at the man in the mirror and decided he didn’t like what he saw enough to buy a new white skin tone, a keen nose that stayed on his face most of the time, thin lips, and a drippy jerry curl to exorcise the kinkiness of his natural hair and eventually just had it permed straight and long. This was not a person happy about being black or who wanted to embrace his blackness. Mr. Jackson ran from being black in front of the entire world to see. Being black was much too painful for him to live with.
What is sad for me is that I loved Michael Jackson just as much as anyone else. Who didn’t? Who didn’t love to hear Michael Jackson sing? And I’m sure there were people who didn’t, but to hell with them. Everybody knew this was a seriously talented young black boy. The dude was crooning like a troubadour at five years old. Who shows that kind of natural talent just months after kicking their diapers to the curb? What was there not to like and admire? No doubt the boy was singing about things he truly didn’t understand. But his voice was so strong, so controlled, with such a good range, and so full of emotion that he could give you the impression that he knew exactly what he was singing about when he was singing songs like Got To Be There and Mama’s Pearl and I’ll Be There.
When Michael broke the stranglehold grip of Berry Gordy and Motown, he truly hit the stratosphere of stardom. Off the Wall, produced under the talented tutelage of Quincy Jones and released under the Epic label, was a phenomenal success for a debut album. And although the cracks were beginning to form in his blackness, his Motown roots were shining through. The songs were soulful modern interpretations of the songs Michael Jackson grew up singing with his brothers. And we all would be talking about Off the Wall to this day if it wasn’t for the even more spectacular success of his follow up album Thriller. Thriller broke just about every record when it was released. But by now Michael’s true colors began to show and black was not one of them.
On a daily basis Michael Jackson got weirder and weirder. And his music started to suffer as well. You use to be able to sing to a Michael Jackson tune. You could snap your fingers and bob your head as you sang Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough or Rock With You. But I couldn’t sing some of his latest stuff if you held a gun to my head. Michael stopped making the kind of music you wanted to hear and focused on the kind of music that had to be performed with a killer iconic dance move. For sure Michael Jackson’s name is associated with some of the most famous dance moves of all time. Everybody remembers the moonwalk and the robot associated with the song Dancing Machine. Everybody liked to see him spin in place like an ice skater doing a pirouette. But the new music began to take a backseat to the new dance moves on the stage and the songs became impossible to simply listen to or sing with over the radio.
The music that made Michael Jackson famous evaporated along with his blackness. The new hybrid Michael Jackson that looked more like a scarecrow from a Japanese anime and his accompanying music could never compete with the older version. And instead of being content to let his greatness lie in the past the King of Pop kept trying to recreate a new phenomenon based on superficial glitz and glamour instead of what really drove his initial success, the raw talent and the music.
Yes it is sad to hear that Michael Jackson died. But the fact of the matter is that to me, the Michael Jackson I came to know and love died a long time ago. The caricature that took the talented Michael Jackson’s place has finally died as well. Maybe in his death he’ll get the peace he appeared to never have had in life. I will miss the Michael Jackson I fell in love with. I will miss the Michael Jackson that I thought I could identify with as an obvious member of the black community. However, I will confess that I will not miss the man that became better known as the King of Pop.
Rest in peace Michael Jackson.
Sanford and Son was the iconic, runaway 70’s hit featuring Redd Foxx as Fred Sanford, a junk man who epitomized some of the most stereotypical behavior of black people. Lamont Sanford was his son, played by Demond Wilson. Fred Sanford didn’t have much respect for his son although Lamont did most of the work around the place. And in many episodes, Fred would refer to Lamont as, “You big dummy!” That catch phrase came to mind listening to the antics of Mark Sanford, the South Carolina Governor who ducked out on his responsibilities over the Father’s Day weekend to engage in an international tryst with a woman in Buenos Aries, Argentina.
You big dummy!
Mr. Sanford ducked out of the Governor’s mansion leaving his staff to wing it as they came up with excuses for why the Governor wasn’t available. Staff said that the Governor was off hiking the Appalachian Trail to clear his head after a particularly difficult legislative session. And then the story changed that the Governor decided the Appalachians weren’t exotic enough and on a whim at the airport he decided to whip out the passport and blow the joint for a trip to Buenos Aries where he did nothing but people watched by his lonesome in various street cafes. And when there was undeniable proof that his trip abroad was more than just an innocent head clearing getaway Mr. Sanford, who always claimed to be the poster boy for family values, admitted that he was having an affair. That exotic getaway turned out to be an erotic getaway. And when he talked about clearing his head we just assumed he was referring to the one above his shoulders.
You really big dummy!
High profile politicians getting caught with their pants down is nothing new. High profile conservative politicians who spend a great deal of time nurturing a holier than thou public persona and getting busted for being just as base as the next guy are nothing new. And yet, we never seem to tire of the depth of their hypocrisy. Mr. Sanford is on record as coming down like the heavy hammer of Thor on President Bill Clinton’s head. Mr. Sanford said that Mr. Clinton failed in his responsibilities to the public and needs to step down for the good of the people.
Will Mr. Sanford stand by his words and follow his own advice? More than likely he will not. He’ll find any old excuse why his situation is different. Mr. Sanford will grasp at any straw to justify his double standard. His reckless rendezvous was a true love affair and not just a torrid booty call so he should be excused and people should empathize with his situation. But the fact remains. Putting the people’s business in a backseat to runoff out of the country on a weekend you should’ve been spending with your sons is pretty shameful. There was no Sanford and sons for Father’s Day this year.
Dummies don’t come any bigger!
What I find most detestable isn’t the fact that Mr. Sanford would take such risk with his career and with his family. Many men, and women, will betray their commitment to their significant other. I believe that even some of the strongest relationships will have to endure somebody’s illicit indiscretions. And I also believe that politicians are people too and they deserve understanding as well.
But what I find despicable is when a politician moves to score points at the expense of others, unwilling to budge an inch and give even an ounce of empathy when they see their chance to pounce. In public these people will beat the drum of high moral judgment void of compassion. But behind closed doors, away from public view, they will prove themselves just as deprave as the next guy. The list of people guilty of this hypocrisy is a long one. Mr. Sanford will find himself in bad company indeed.
If Mr. Sanford would have simply kept his mouth shut when others were going through their public embarrassments then his hypocrisy wouldn’t be such a big deal. The fact that he abandoned his constituents is still pretty bad, but at least he wouldn’t have been such a hypocrite when he did it. However, not only did he two timed his wife and family, not only did he two timed the people of South Carolina, he two timed the world with his facade of being one of the good guys above reproach. He was quick to cast a damning judgment on others for failing to meet a standard of human behavior that he should have known that he was incapable of meeting himself.
I do not want to cast judgment on Mr. Sanford. At least I don’t want to judge him for having an affair with serious ramifications for his family and for the great state of South Carolina and for his career. Mr. Sanford has already cast judgment for himself. He who’s willing to judge shall be judged, or something to that affect. But it really is hard to pass up the fact that this is a man who appears to be a seriously big dummy. His career appears to be dying before our very eyes. His career is clutching at its chest, looking to the heavens as it staggers around the room saying, “I’m coming Elizabeth! I think this is the big one!”
It must be summer. This is the time of year when people throw their cares to the wind and take off for greener pastures or whatever form of relaxation appeals to their fancy. People will load the kids in the car and head down the road for the amusement parks. People will pack the bags and hop on a flight to who knows and drink mai tais with little cute umbrellas by the pool. So many people will spend their time relaxing by reading a book in one of those lounge chairs on a deck somewhere.
At least I think they’re reading a book because they’ve certainly kicked my blog to the curb! Where all the readers at? I don’t know what’s been happening at other websites but here, things have gotten pretty quiet lately. No joke! I could compete with a Pontiac dealership for who has lost the most traffic in the past few weeks. And the more I lose visitors the more difficult it becomes to come back and write something the least bit provocative or entertaining.
And I refuse to write about stuff like the latest dumb shit happening between Rihanna and Chris Brown. All you have to do is put their names in a title and a blogger is guaranteed to get at least a thousand hits in an hour’s time. Or better yet, I could jump on the second guess the happenings in Iran at the moment. But lord knows it would be pert near impossible to write about any of that stuff from a fresh perspective worth reading. Then again, the way the blogosphere has been fired up with Iran articles, more people are probably writing about that stuff than there are people reading it.
I thought about doing an article comparing North Korea holding the two American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee on charges of sneaking into that country. People everywhere got their panties in a wad over the audacity of the Kim Jong Il regime to hold two Americans who made the choice to illegally enter that country. But the same people will dismiss the fact that the United States will hold hundreds of people in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, some as young as thirteen and fifteen years old. And some of those people have been there for seven years. I could write about that. But then who’d read it?
This will be the third summer this blog has seen. I thought the first time I saw my numbers drop was nothing more than a correction. I started my blog in March and by May the number of daily reader hits had climbed eight times over. When I saw the huge dip in hits the following June I simply thought that May was a fluke. But come September, the numbers started to creep back up and every month thereafter. That was 2007.
In 2008 I saw almost the same exact thing happen. In April of 2008 I saw numbers that I thought were hard to believe. With the presidential primaries in full swing for both major political parties, people were starved to read anything and everything about Barack Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and just about any and every other political candidate. Things dipped a bit in May. But then June rolled around and the numbers sank like Idaho Senator Larry Craig’s popularity after he did his Flomax commercial reenactment in the men’s room at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport.
Things bottomed out the following August and the numbers started to climb again in September and reached a peak in early November, no doubt a reaction to America electing her first black President. Every blog that ever mentioned Barack Obama probably did well. And while the numbers came down from the stratosphere the following month, they were still higher than anytime before November 2008. Ever since then the numbers remained high. That is until June.
I’ll admit it is only an assumption. But June is proving to be a hard nut to crack and keep the numbers going. I don’t blame anyone. I know that there are a number of blogs that I used to visit that I really don’t have the time to patronize as often as I did once upon a time. I like to think that a lot of people who visit my blog are of the younger generation, students in school who may be out for the summer and the last thing they might be thinking of is getting online these days. I can understand. Even though I’m addicted to the internet, not everybody is.
So this summer I think I’ll relax a bit myself. Make to mistake, without a doubt I’ll continue to blog. But while I work hard to produce an article almost on a daily basis in the past, I think I’ll give myself a break and might skip a day or two every now and then. Hey, even bloggers need a vacation. We need to relax too you know.
The Voting Rights Act has been repeatedly renewed by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court ever since it became part of the civil rights agenda. And yet, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, reexamined the law once again. A provision in the law gives the United States Justice Department the power to review proposed election law changes in several states, mostly in the South, and many other counties and municipalities, where race discrimination with respect to voting has a history of being most flagrant. A small Texas district challenged this provision claiming that the law unconstitutionally infringed on state powers and was no longer necessary because of changes in voter registration and turnout by racial minorities.
It was argued that the nation’s first black President proved that the law was no longer needed. The law’s defenders, including the Justice Department in both the Bush and Obama administrations, said minorities still face intimidation and discrimination at the polls. When the justices of the highest court heard oral arguments back in April, several conservative justices, including Mr. Roberts, suggested that they agreed with the challengers that the historic law that had aided once disenfranchised blacks was no longer needed. However, when Mr. Roberts announced the court’s ruling, he suggested that a majority might someday be ready to strike down the law. But for now, the law survives through an apparent compromise among the justices.
This provision in the law was intended to ensure that a local government did not draw new voting district boundaries or enact rules that would negatively impact the votes of blacks or other minorities. The law allows districts to drop out from under Justice Department review if the districts can show that they have not used any forbidden voting tests for a decade and can show they have engaged in constructive efforts to eliminate intimidation and harassment of voters. Supposedly, since 1982, only seventeen jurisdictions out of more than twelve thousand have successfully been exempted from the act. Mr. Roberts said it was unlikely that the legislators intended the exemption provision to have such a limited effect.
While the Supreme Court justices were unanimous in their judgment, Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenting justice who wanted to strike the law from the books outright. Mr. Thomas said he would find the act unconstitutional because the extensive pattern of discrimination that led the court to uphold the law as a tool to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment protecting the right to vote no longer exists. It is the opinion of the court that the jurisdictions affected by this law are not currently engaged in any campaign to deny black citizens access to the ballot through intimidation or violence.
However, does anybody remember the fiasco associated with the presidential elections in Florida back in November of 2000? According to an article by Arianna Huffington named Stealing the Election: Florida’s Ugly Secret, an outrageously large number of African American votes were nullified in Florida. A detailed analysis of the Florida vote by the Washington Post discovered a staggeringly high percentage of black voters had their ballots rejected. For instance, up to a third of the ballots cast in Jacksonville’s black precincts were tossed out, four times more than in neighboring white precincts.
Ms. Huffington wrote, “This huge disparity in discarded votes is a reminder that we are indeed two Americas — not just when it comes to education, health care, housing and our vaunted prosperity, but even when it comes to voting. In the precincts of the other America, there were longer lines, less reliable voting machines and less access to technology that instantly identified mismarked ballots and gave voters a second chance. So even when it comes to this most egalitarian of acts, some are more equal than others.”
Florida’s African American community turned out to vote in record numbers, inspired by a push by then Governor Jeb Bush who campaigned on a platform than included the dismantling of affirmative action programs involved that affected university admissions and state contracting. “We’ll remember in November” was the adopted slogan. The black community responded by registering new voters in record setting numbers. But unfortunately, when many newly registered voters showed up at the polls in the precincts with higher black populations, they were not on the rolls and were not allowed to vote.
More affluent precincts were equipped by the election commission with computers that allowed them to tie into the main registration rolls even though it was known that the highest number of new registrants were in African American precincts. Since election officials knew in advance that the highest number of new registrations to vote were in African American districts, and those districts were not provided with adequate access to county voter rolls, that this was a deliberate act to deny black citizens access to the ballot.
The idea that the right to vote doesn’t need protection because no one tries to deny anyone the right to vote is pure fiction. The right to vote may not be under threat by blatant acts of intimidation or violence, but it is under threat nevertheless. To deny people the right to vote through voter manipulation or a lack of adequate voting resources at the booth is an indication that our right to vote is fragile and should be protected at all cost.
Nobody would say that we can take laws that make murder illegal off the books because nobody has been murdered in the past ten years. Nobody would say that laws against rape are useless because nobody is being raped. But because we can point to our black President we can throw all the laws that are designed to protect black people from certain elements of the dominant community chomping at the bit to disenfranchise people in the black community. As a nation we are so quick to believe that racism is a thing of the past that we are ready to ignore or forget blatant acts of racism that happen right before our eyes.
On Sunday morning I usually watch This Week with George Stephanopolous and catch up on the political flavor of the week from various political pundit perspectives. The show usually features George Will and Cokey Roberts. Sam Donaldson and Robert Reich are regulars among a long list of others. Yesterday I watched these people discuss the ramifications of universal healthcare and how President Barack Obama is wasting political clout on a fruitless attempt to get a public healthcare option for the masses who continue to do without.
At one point, in order to drive home his argument, the conservative Mr. Will pulled out his Medicare card and told the story of how he presented it to his doctor and his doctor said that it was great that Mr. Will’s children was going to pay their father’s bill. Some of the people around the table laughed. Mr. Will made the statement that no one wanted universal healthcare. I thought that was a stupid thing to say. I would like to see universal healthcare. Mr. Reich was arguing for universal healthcare. There are about fifty million Americans without any kind of healthcare who more than likely would like to see kind of universal healthcare.
All of the political experts around the table with Mr. Stephanopolous had healthcare. They all had high dollar jobs getting paid to express their opinion and help shape the public’s political perspectives. No one at the table felt a desperate need for healthcare. Somebody at the table called the American healthcare system the best healthcare system in the world. They didn’t add the fact that it’s only the best for those people who have healthcare benefits. Otherwise, the people who don’t have coverage or who may have a preexisting condition, the system sucks.
About a year and a half ago, there was one morning I was getting dressed for work. My partner and I were acting silly the way fairly new couples do. She was getting baby boy ready to leave the house for a few errands. She got the baby dressed and turned her back towards him. The baby was sitting in the middle of the bed. He was kind of cranky and wanted his mother’s attention. He suddenly threw himself back and simultaneously kicked his legs up ready to throw a tantrum. Although he was in the middle of the queen sized bed, when he went back, his head was over the edge of the bed. The physical makeup of toddlers is such that something like ninety three percent of their body weight is above their neck. When he thrust his body back and simultaneously lifted his legs, the momentum was enough for gravity to grab hold of his head and pulled him over the edge of the bed head first like a real life Humpty Dumpty.
Talk about time slowing to a crawl. My body took a totally useless adrenaline dump. There was no way given the physics of this universe I could reach him in time. The mother was standing in between us with her back turned away from the baby. My partner could only see the horror in my face. She turned around just in time to see the baby’s feet disappear with the rest of his body. We both waited for the sound of the baby’s head hitting the hardwood pine floors. But instead of the thud indicating head to floor contact, our ears heard the sound of feet hitting the floor. The mother ran around the bed. I braced myself waiting to hear the wail of a baby in serious pain. But instead we heard the cry of a baby frightened and frustrated. As best as we could figure out, when he kicked his feet up and gave his body the momentum to go over the edge of the bed, that same momentum managed to flip him totally over and he somersaulted before he hit the floor. The baby was fine. We laughed. We were both relieved.
As a first time father I saw my baby’s ten months of life flash across my eyes. I thought about our brand new healthcare and thought how fortunate we were that I had a job that afforded us coverage. If the baby was injured we had some protection. But what about all the people that suffer serious injuries from the occasional accidents that are bound to happen when people make the mistake of taking a moment to be less vigilant than they should be?
Even though we are protected the issue of healthcare for others remains an area of deep concern for me. I’d like to think that this concern comes from a sincere interest in the welfare of my fellowman. But I can’t help but think that as a black man living here in America and unwilling to completely conform to the standards of behavior for black people as dictated by the corporate culture that is dominated so completely by a mindset skewed to protect white privilege, it is only a matter of time before I may find myself unemployed and without adequate healthcare once again. Some noble sentiment may sound nice and community oriented. But my concern for the unemployed may just as well be a selfish one based on the possibility of future events.
For the moment my family and I are doing well. I have a job that allowed us to pay back the people that helped us during our leanest of times and buy a house. We are weathering this storm and appear to be coming through the other side after waiting for what appeared to us to be the longest of time. I hope and pray for the wisdom that we never forget the experience of being among the less fortunate people. By no means are we out of the woods just yet. I won’t be retiring from working anytime soon. But we are definitely doing a lot better than a lot of the people who live around us. We are not black community Rockefellers but we are beginning to develop options for the future that many black people in our neighborhood do not.
However, just because we are doing well now and for the foreseeable future, that doesn’t mean that the issue isn’t still an important one. There are people who need help. As a supposedly civilized culture we should not allow ourselves to develop the false sense of security to think that it is okay to leave such a large chunk of our community unprotected. And more often than not the unprotected part of the community that is most susceptible will be comprised of the lower class that is overly represented by black people.
All too often people want to label people who call for true universal healthcare as irrelevant. No one wants universal coverage except for the cry babies looking for a handout. But the issue remains the same. There are way too many people who don’t have healthcare. There will be parents who will be distracted for just a second and their baby will be injured. There will always be people who will suffer accidents. These people will need medical help. But instead of us acting as a civilization working to help the weakest amongst us we will scold them and discard them for being part of the group of unfortunates unable to help themselves. We are quick to dismiss those who can’t afford healthcare. They are the nobodies who want universal healthcare and who wants to listen to them?
We celebrated Father’s Day yesterday. The misses asked me to make a fire in the little black Smokey Joe. That barbeque pit is so ancient I seriously doubt if it’ll make another year. But then again I said the same thing about it two years ago. Baby boy woke up just in time to come out with me. While I worked on starting a fire, my little man cub kept himself busy playing with the water house. Lately, he discovered water comes out of that strange thing at the end of the long green thing. Once I set it so that a small stream of water came out continuously, baby boy was set.
It took all of about six minutes to start the fire. First step was to clean the pit. Some bugs got inside and made a nest since the last fire. I decided to be merciful and just tossed them into the trash with the left over ashes. Any bugs that stayed were about to be learn first hand about the affects of fire. I spread the charcoal on the bottom grill, doused it all with lighter fluid, held the match to one of the briquettes, and let the flame do its work. Within sixty seconds the pit was on fire. I put the top grill on. Another generous but judicious squirt from the lighter fluid and it was roaring. After a minute or so I got the metal brush and cleaned the top grill. After that, a third squirt of lighter fluid, the flame roared again, and the grill was ready for the chicken. Unfortunately, we don’t do red meat or pork, much.
I was supposed to be relaxing this weekend. So when I turned and asked the misses for a beer, she turned for her purse and hightailed it to the grocery store. Normally, I’d have to make the beer run. But this was my weekend. I stayed behind and watched the meat and baby boy with the water hose.
The boy never moved. He was content to just stand there with one hand holding the hose and the other hand in front of the nozzle, defusing the water. The water would occasionally splash up into his face and he would blink like he’d just been pepper sprayed. Still not quite used to water being on his face, but that wasn’t about to stop him. He’d try to wipe drops away. And for every drop he wiped away he added a dozen more. I got up to turn the meat over and he looked up for just a second to make sure I wasn’t leaving. But his attention quickly returned to the water. About thirty minutes later mom made the beer run and baby boy never took a single step in any direction. He simply stayed there getting wet.
We took pictures. Normally when he sees us taking pictures of him he wants to grab the camera. But he just stayed there. And we just watched him. I finished two beers, finished the first round of meat, carted it away and started a second round, and he stayed right there. He was soaked and getting soaker by the minute. His diaper started to hang like a sack of potatoes.
In the middle of us laughing at him I realized that the only reason I’m relaxing this day is because of him. I’m a father because of him. He has transformed me. And I admired the little soaking wet fella for what he has done for my world. He has helped me to better understand my place in the universe. I truly love my son. And he is much more important to me than anything else in this world. I will do my best to move heaven and hell for him. He is my only hope for my family’s future.
It was about this time I started thinking about Mr. Obama’s statement last year, talking in front of the black community, and saying any fool can cause a child. That may be true. His message, dripping with contempt for black people like my son was dripping with water, was that it takes courage and commitment to be a father. I won’t disagree with the sentiment even though the delivery was pretty disgusting for someone who was supposed to be trying to earn black people’s vote along with the rest of the people in our national collective. It was pretty obvious that this politician took black people for granted then and would take black people for granted as President.
Yes it is true that just about any fool can cause a child. And it is also true that real men are committed to their children. But I think it takes a special man to be a fool for his child. Like Sonny the cuckoo bird that perpetually went coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs, I will be more than happy to go crazy for my little man cub. He has me wrapped around his little pinky. And he barely knows how to keep water out of his face.
I take that back. He knew exactly how to get the water away. After about an hour or so of just standing there and drenching himself, he looked at me and started screaming. And like a servant at his master’s beck and call I immediately jumped up to solve the problem. He held out the hose and I took it away from him, turned it off, and put it away. He reached up to me and picked him up. Water oozed from his clothes. I handed him to the misses. She’s a fool for baby boy too y’know.
When there was opposition expressed against the election, and reelection, of George Bush, Jr. the United States Supreme Court simply ruled that to question the election results would possibly injure the Bush administration. Too bad Ahmadinejad can’t take his case to the United States Supreme Court. Maybe they would rule that the Iranian President would be injured if anyone reexamined the Iranian election results.