I find it frustrating to be constantly accused of being a person who hates white people. While it is true that I don’t care for people who are blatantly racist or people who may collaborate in the subjugation of black people, I hardly think that I can be summarized as someone who simply goes around hating white people. I don’t believe there is a logical explanation for such a conclusive jump based on assumptions that don’t even scratch the surface. I believe that to accuse me of racism is to avoid taking an honest look at the issues of racism at hand and recognize that many people are synonymous with being blatantly racist against dark people and are just much too willing to participate and/or tolerate the subjugation of people based on nothing more than the color of skin.
It is a matter of fact that the dominant culture is controlled tremendously by a mindset that is sensitive to issues from the majority of white people’s perspective. While it may go without saying that many people who fall into this category are in fact white there is a growing number of black people who have adopted a white oriented mindset, a way of thinking and analyzing issues that protects white privilege, in a variety of issues that may clash with perspectives from the black community. The perspective of the black community that runs contrary to the dominant culture is often scorned and minimized as much as possible in order to reduce its impact on the larger community.
One of the most glaring examples of this phenomenon that immediately come to mind are John White and his family versus Daniel Cicciaro and his family, the conflict between the black students and white students in Jena, Louisiana, the difference in perspectives when the two cultures look at what happened to Martin Lee Anderson, Genarlow Wilson, Shelwanda Riley, Shequanda Cotton, Henry Louis Gates, the Katrina disaster, Don Imus, Duane “Dog” Chapman, and such. In each of these examples the majority of black people who bothered to give any thought to what was going on found themselves at odds with the dominant perspective of the issue at hand. And the excuses people provide for this disparity between the two communities are truly lame.
While many people in the black community felt that John White was treated unfairly many people from the majority mindset would say that Mr. White is a murderer who got his comeuppance. While black people reflect on what happened in New Orleans, Louisiana in the aftermath of Katrina as a public disgrace of the federal government, people from the majority mindset will dismiss all the people suffering through the storm and the resulting flooding as nothing more than an unfortunate set of circumstances. While the black community may have enjoyed a small victory with Don Imus being fired, the dominant culture compensated Mr. Imus for being a “victim” of a company that had the audacity to listen to black people. Not only did Mr. Imus get his voice back on the airwaves, he was awarded a multi million dollar settlement for his troubles.
Any one of these fore mentioned issues would generate consternation by its lonesome to anyone with honest compassion for the black community. But these issues, compounded by many more, are a constant reminder to the black community that our position is not from one of strength or from one of righteousness but from one of suffrage and weakness. Our position is not one of a people who feel part of the whole but of a people dominated by the whole. This is a fact that many will dispute as fiction. Many people will argue that black people are indeed treated fairly, but the fact of that matter is that the black community is ill prepared to compete in the employment market with white people. And, even though these people believe that this is the case, they make the choice to do nothing to correct the imbalance.
Does this mean that all black people are a victim? No. Some black people thrive very well in this system that favors white people. Black people who demonstrate their willingness to adopt the idea that this “race based disparity is okay” mindset and participate in the defense of the status quo that allows the more dominate white community to flourish and the subordinate black culture to languish will do well from a financially perspective.
But everyday we get a reminder of our true place in America’s collective eye. Every now and then we see instances of what America thinks of her black population. Take for the example the Long Island contractor who had to audacity John White who crossed the line and actually thought he was somehow immune from ever being perceived as little more than another common black man. Dude had the nerve to defy the community he was permitted to live in, thought he had the right to defend his house from some drunk white teenagers, and killed a white man’s son who was in the middle of committing a crime. And dude paid the price for forgetting his place.
In the larger picture these black skinned people are part of the black community’s problem. Many of these black people would defend the white subjugation of black with more vigor than most white people could ever muster. This is part of the reason why you will see Juan Williams, Jason Whitlock, Clarence Thomas, Charles Barkley and other black people who protect the status quo and give their support by voicing their allegiance to the system on a regular basis fronting for subjugating policies.
Does this mean that all people in the dominant community are equally guilty? No. The behavior of the dominant community runs the gamut just like the behavior that can be found in the black community. Many people from the racially generic pool will actively work to keep black people in their proper place. Many others are complacent happy not to disturb the status quo that protects their inherited advantage. Not exactly a subjugator but nevertheless supporting the subjugation by not doing anything to stop it and tolerating its existence.
However some people are compassionate enough to put aside any racial prejudices that they may harbor and give black people a fair chance to participate in the procurement of materialism and wealth that is an absolute mandatory in America. And believe it or not some of these people who do offer jobs and opportunities to the black community do so without the requirement that black people shuck and jive, conform and submit, and show their unfailing devotion to the status quo rules.
Do I hate white people? The answer is a resounding not at all. Do I suffer from suspicions and think that the racially generic people are more likely to contribute to the subjugation of me and the rest of the black community? Unfortunately I have to confess that I do. But do I walk up to every white person that I see and saddle them with my suspicions before I even get a chance to know them? I’m happy to say no. I am constantly putting my prejudices to the side and give strangers the benefit of doubt. Unfortunately I have to say that many times over my suspicions are confirmed.
When I started working at my current job I greeted every person I met in the hallway, break room, or wherever with a hello or some kind of acknowledgment that I see that they exist. I quickly learned who will reciprocate acknowledgment of my existence and respond. After the umpteenth time of not getting a hello back you learn why bother. It is rare to see black people at the office that will ignore me or look the other way when I speak to them. But a lot of white people are hateful enough to make the choice not to say hello when I speak to them. After several attempts at making eye contact and saying hello and watching them look away or start looking at their feet or anything to not respond, I have to leave them be. Maybe this is a person that doesn’t speak to anybody. But then I will see these people open themselves up and speak to somebody else in the hallway or somebody else in the break room. The fact that they will speak to other white in the office only helps to confirm my suspicions.
Chances are a white person is more likely to be the type of person who will choose not to acknowledge a black person as an equal, as competent, as a human being who deserves the courtesy of a greeting. That doesn’t keep me from speaking to and acknowledging white people. Despite what I may think and what I have learned I will give each person that I meet the first time the benefit of a doubt. All too often my suspicions about white people are confirmed. And this is what happens when I say hello. Imagine what would happen if I had to apply for a job. White or black or anything in between, I don’t hate anyone because of the color of the skin.
Imagine a time at the peak of the period of institutionalized slavery where Africans are considered property and low intelligence beast of burden. White people use skin color as an indication of a person’s worth. Any obvious indication of African ancestry and the person is relegated into a low class social status. Some black people are able to shake the bonds of enslavement. These fortunate blacks are owned by white people who want to grant their enslaved Africans their freedom in their will. Or, some slave owners will actually allow their enslaved Africans to make deals that would allow them to earn their freedom. But these deals are normally not a package that would allow for the freedom of the entire family. An Africans could work their entire life just to gain the freedom of their loved ones.
Once freed the African has to deal with a racist society that works relentlessly to keep black people from accumulating wealth, owning property, earning the right to vote, earning an education, earning an equal wage, and participation of anything else that would or could lead to a perception of equal status for blacks.
Now, me being a black man I would imagine that if I were to live under such conditions I would resent the white community. I would consider such living conditions unfair. I would look and see the disparity between the conditions that the vast majority of black people live under compared to white people. Although I may not fully understand every last detail of the science of the social behavior that the dominant white community follows to justify the subjugation of black people I would understand that the disparity could not be created and could not be perpetuated without white people actively working a system of segregation and class strife than runs along racial lines. I would imagine that the resentment that I would feel would run rampant throughout the black community.
Throughout the changes that have been made in American culture, throughout the period that witnessed the establishment and eventual abolishment of America’s institutionalized enslavement of black people, throughout the period of time that saw the establishment and eventual abolishment of America’s Jim Crow laws, through the era of the civil rights movement, and all the other subsequent generations of American history, the dominant culture continued its perpetuation of racial disparity. As a black man I would resent America’s dominant culture for what it has done in the past, what it is doing now to protect the racial status quo, and what it will continue to do in the future to continue its subjugation of the black community.
People will say get over it, what’s done is done. But, tell me, how do I get over it when I see as the result of this subjugation every single day when I go home to my house in the black community and see the disparity of black community’s living conditions compared to the white community I just left with a complete set of services and resources for its residents and businesses? How do I get over racial disparity when I look at the workplace and see all the predominantly white executives in the boardroom and the mailroom and janitorial services that are predominantly black? How do I get over the racial disparity between black wages and white wages, black wealth and white wealth, black property and white property, the quality of black healthcare services and white healthcare services, the quality of black public education and white public education, the black employment opportunities and the white employment opportunities, black prosecution and white prosecution, black government representation and white government representation?
Most of all I resent people, across the racial spectrum, who have the nerve to say that I, a black man who is reminded everyday of the affects of this disparity founded a long time ago along racial lines, should get over my sense of fairness and justice and simply conform to the parameters that the dominant culture has established for black people. In my mind, to simply submit and learn to tolerate this disparity is to become complacent. To suggest that other people should join in the submission to the mandates of the dominant culture is to become a collaborator to black people’s subjugation.
My resentment does not paralyze me. My resentment does not keep me from competing in a working environment stacked against me. My resentment doesn’t blind me to the fact that I have to work harder to earn less. My resentment doesn’t allow me to forget that I have to tolerate coworkers, black and white alike, who would prefer that they not tolerate me darkening their work environment with my presence. But most of all my resentment helps me remember that I have to continue to do what I can to change the status quo of black subjugation. Resentment for how our society has regulated the black community to its second class status helps me to remember that this isn’t over. Other black people can pretend that everything is okay. But resentment, fueled by what has happened to black communities across this country, keeps me from embracing such blinders.
“I am an African American girl and I don’t like to see my sisters and brothers complain constantly about the long-ago past.
“yes our ancestors were once enslaved by white people but we are not, and we have not been for a long time, very many black men and women fought and lost their lives so that we can have the freedom we have today, not so that we could sit around complaining about it instead of bettering ourselves.
“my father is a lawyer and my mother is a nurse, they both come from poor families but both of their families pushed them to be the best they can be and work hard no matter what so that you can achieve your goals, and this is what both of my parents have passed on to me.
“don’t let things get you down on anybody, worry about yourself and learn to prosper and the rest will fall into place!”
Thanks for the feedback Ashley Jenkins,
I am always fascinated by the number of black people or African Americans who seem to think that racism is something that happened long ago in the past. It wasn’t our ancestors who were left behind to their own devices when the levies broke in New Orleans. It isn’t our ancestors who have to deal with unemployment rates twice that of the white community. It isn’t our ancestors who are being shot by police in a hail of bullets or shot in the back as they lay on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs. It wasn’t our ancestors who were murdered by a group of boot camp guards because he couldn’t run any further. These things happened in the last year or so. What ever made you think these events happened long ago?
I have to admit that I don’t like to see my brothers and sisters, such as yourself, who think that showing compassion for other black people is nothing more than sitting around and complaining. Like you I come from a family of professionals. Dad worked for the federal government and mom was the first black woman to become a nursing administrator at one of the local hospitals. I have a sibling who is a school teacher, another is a train conductor, another is middle management at an international corporation, another is a truck driver, and another is a information technology professional. Our parents pushed us to be the best we can be as well. But simply because we are successful doesn’t mean that racism is gone. My parents taught me that it is better to care about others in the black community than to turn my back and say something like pull yourself up by your boot strap.
If a group of people do nothing but worry about themselves then means we stand separately and not as a unified people. It also makes us easier to defeat and easier to manipulate. Another image from back in the past is of the house negro who lived in relative comfort compared to the field negro. But the house negro would swear up and down things were great even though black people were white people’s property. And a lot of black people back then were saying that black people need to quit complaining and just worry about themselves. Such complacency then would have never led to the changes that you and your parents enjoy today. Good thing there were other black people who knew what the real deal was.
I am truly sorry, but not surprised, that you do not understand. A lot of black people have been programmed not to care about other black people. If we take care of ourselves then everything will fall into place. But fall into place for who? The dominant community that is made up primarily of white people will be the ones who benefit from black people’s inability to unite for our common good.
The past is used as a comparison as a measure of how little the black community has advanced as a unit. Back in the day, many black people had it much better than their black peers. Some black people were free to come and go as they pleased, as long as they had proof that they were free and knew their place. People could point to a free negro and say how far black people have come since the day all black people were considered slaves or white people’s property. But the freedom was fragile. All it took was an accusation from a white person and black people could kiss their ass goodbye.
True equality for the black community isn’t measured by the success or failure of just one man. True equality for the black community comes when we truly cannot tell the difference between statistics in employment and education and income and etcetera. Burying our heads in the “everybody is free to do whatever” sand is not conducive to making the changes than will truly put us on the path where everyone has the same opportunities regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or whatever it is that makes us unique individuals with common interests.
It is an exciting time. In a few hours the world will get its first United States President that is not a white male. Barack Hussein Obama will be the first African American to serve as President of the United States. It is an exciting time indeed. The authorities estimate that as many as two million people will crowd into the small strip of open space known as the National Mall. Some people are paying outrageous sums of good money and jumping through all kinds of flaming hoops so they can experience the event first hand even though more than likely they’d need a telescope with the optics of the Hubble to make out Mr. Obama’s person as he takes the oath on the steps of the United States Capitol Building.
A lot of people are asking the question what would Dr. King think of all this. Truly, what would arguably the greatest symbol of the civil rights movement think? What would the man who worked tirelessly for the black community think about a black politician achieving what for many is considered the highest political office in the land? Not surprisingly, I see it as a simple question to answer.
When Dr. King instituted passive resistance against the raging institutionalized racism of America, there were a number of individual black Americans who were doing surprisingly well at the time. People like Sidney Portier and Diane Carroll were making careers as Hollywood actors. People like Redd Foxx and Bill Cosby were doing very well as comedians. Berry Gordy and Earl Graves were making a name in the corporate world. And a number of other black professionals were doing well as doctors and lawyers and whatever you may have had at the time.
But Dr. King wasn’t fighting for civil rights for a handful of black people. His struggle was for the black community at large. Mr. King never said that we needed a black President or a black corporate executive or the first black whatever. Mr. King was fighting for the black community in general and not for that one black individual who has been able to overcome and reach their goals.
Thinking of Dr. King I am reminded of the story where he made a personal request to Nichelle Nichols who played Lieutenant Uhura on the then brand new science fiction phenomenon Star Trek. For sometime, Ms. Nichols had felt that she was being mistreated by the show’s producers and wanted to quit the franchise. When she had discovered that while other actors were enjoying their notoriety her fan mail was being withheld it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She wanted to quit. But Dr. King appealed to her saying that it would inspire future generations of black people to achieve. Dr. Mae Jamison, the first black woman to go to space, admitted that it was Lieutenant Uhura at the futuristic switchboard of the Enterprise that inspired her to become an astronaut.
I’d like to imagine that Dr. King would be proud of Mr. Obama just as much as he would have been proud of any and every person of African decent who achieves and who wants to maintain their affiliation with the black community without selling their soul to do it. The election of Mr. Obama to the presidency is a great achievement for him. But the election of Mr. Obama is not tantamount to the evaporation of inequality. Mr. Obama’s achievement is not the end all or be all of the black community.
A lot of people like to talk in the most simplistic of terms that Mr. Obama’s election is now an indication that racism is over and that the people in the black community no longer have an excuse for the under achievement that permeates the black community relative to other communities. But then people turn around and see Mr. Obama as the rare exception instead of the general rule of black people. He speaks so well. Black people are indeed inferior. It’s just that every now and then you will find that rare black person that can transcend his or her inherent black inferiorities.
Bottom line is that from Dr. King’s perspective, it wasn’t about the individual. It wasn’t about the achievements of a few black people. It was about the black community. We can celebrate the fact that Mr. Obama is the latest member of an extremely small, elite fraternity. We can support him in his endeavors as he tries to bring something that resembles respectable leadership back to the oval office. The black community should be very proud of this moment.
But on the flipside, this is not a time to rest on laurels. The proportion of education and employment opportunities for young black people falls short. The only area when opportunities for black people excel relative to others is when we have an opportunity to fall under the harsh judgment of the public’s eye such as when we are brought before the judicial system or law enforcement. And we still suffer from a mindset that when something negative is perpetrated by one black person, all black people suffer the consequences. The whole fate of future black Presidents rest on Mr. Obama’s broad shoulders. However, the fate of future white Presidents is hardly impacted by the less than stellar performance of George Bush.
And what does an Obama presidency hold for the black community? Would he be a black President in the vein of Thurgood Marshall, the first black appointment to the Supreme Court? Or is Mr. Obama’s relationship with the black community will be better defined in the vein of Clarence Thomas, Mr. Marshall’s less than illustrious successor? Generally speaking will Mr. Obama be someone welcomed by the vast majority of black people who will judge as a good thing for everyone including the black community or will he be judged as an anathema heavily despised by black people?
Like most black people who have a vision and are more socially oriented, I imagine Dr. King would hope for the best for the entire community. But he would not assume anything. He would be proud, but he would stay vigilant. He would say that this was a great achievement for a black man. Obviously, the fact that a black man is becoming President is a sign that we have made significant progress. But the fight for racial equality is far from over. I believe Dr. King would know that we must continue this long and arduous journey resisting all manners of distractions along the way, even the distractions that would lead us to believe we have arrived when it’s really nothing more than the next logical step in a very long process.
If only this was always true. Unfortunately, history has a tendency to be written by the people in charge. For example, I find it rather disgusting that President Abraham Lincoln promoted himself as a racist. Mr. Lincoln was no man with sensitivity for black people and yet black people love him. He freed the slaves! Trust me, if Mr. Lincoln could have met his goals and keep black people as slaves, I’m sure he would’ve died a much happier man. Mr. Lincoln suffers from no stern judgment. And if it can happen for him, why can’t it happen for Mr. Bush?
I was rather appalled to hear the suggestion that the future would be much kinder to President George Bush. This man has wreaked havoc on the United States and the entire world. He will forever be linked to this second war on Iraq under the guise that the United States had the right to initiate preemptive wars against perceived yet totally unsubstantiated threats. We will find the weapons of mass destruction. We will chase Osama bin Laden through the gates of hell and around the flames of perdition until we find him. Mr. Hussein defied United Nation mandates and so the United States had to defy the United Nations in order to prove to the world that no one should be defying the United Nations. The reasons the Bush administration gave for promoting war is as long as the war itself.
Mr. Bush turned a blind eye to the suffering in New Orleans. The other day in his final press conference he held fast to his claim that the federal government moved quickly because the Coast Guard was there plucking people off the roofs of their houses during the storm. Because the local Coast Guard was unhampered by bureaucracy and didn’t get the memo that the lower part of Louisiana did not receive federal disaster area recognition and didn’t wait for approval to come through proper procedure in order to act, Mr. Bush wants to claim the actions of a few helicopters as indicative of a prompt, and it is implied sufficient, response by his administration to cover the lame effort put forth by FEMA. If I recall properly, Mr. Bush said heckuva job Brownie and not heckuva job Coast Guard.
Mr. Bush let oil companies define his energy policy and then looked surprised when those companies started making record profits earning as much as a billion dollars a week while the public suffered with paying four dollars a gallon for gasoline. Mr. Bush put people with sympathy for polluters in charge of the EPA.
Mr. Bush ignored the signs that a financial crisis was looming and instead stuck his head in the sand with claims that the foundation of the economy was strong. Plugging the hole that people were beginning to fall through when it was a relatively small problem never registered on Mr. Bush’s brain. We had to wait until large companies were failing before reacting. Mr. Bush enacted a policy of too big to fail, too small to help. By the time the government began to react, it was too late. A stitch in time would have saved a huge national collective headache. There is the Valerie Plame fiasco which could probably be summed up as No Spy Left Behind. And don’t forget how the Bush administration would manipulate science to deny doing anything about global warming or to fund any science that conducts research with stem cells from embryos.
There is a long list of Mr. Bush’s associates who have sulked away into obscurity, or soon will be. There’s Attorney General Roberto Gonzales, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield, Chief Advisor to the Vice President I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a butt load of White House press secretaries, Julie Myers of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Christine Todd Whitman of the EPA, the former director of FEMA Michael “Brownie” Brown, Thomas White the former Interior Secretary, Elaine Chao the Secretary of Labor, Paul Wolfowitz the former Deputy of Defense Secretary, and the master king pin of all Karl Rove.
Mr. Bush points to his No Child Left Behind policy as one of his few successes. But for the past eight years the government has mandated that schools teach children to take a standardized test in order to compete for their funding instead of teaching children the three R’s. Mr. Bush likes to point to his drug policy for seniors as another success. Let’s see, we’re going to counter a war that has cost millions of lives and destroyed families and robbed our national treasury with the fact that our senior citizens no longer have to go to Canada to afford their prescriptions. Classic Bush.
When I initially heard Mr. Bush say that he will be vindicated by future historians I had to laugh to myself. Ain’t no way in hell people can forget the depth of this administration’s inclination to manipulate facts and distort truths. Nobody’s memory is that short. No history book’s pages fade that quickly. I held on to this notion for about a month or so.
But then I got an epiphany and I realized that there is very good potential that Mr. Bush could be remembered as one of the best Presidents this country ever had. I heard a report that President-elect Barack Obama will be using a Christian bible that once belonged to Abraham Lincoln to take his inaugural oath. Mr. Obama will be delivering his inaugural address within sight of the Lincoln Memorial. For a while now, Mr. Obama admitted that he has been using the presidential policies of Abraham Lincoln as inspiration for his strategy for picking his cabinet by reaching out to his political opponents as well as by reaching across the political divide to the other party. Mr. Lincoln’s influence is all over Mr. Obama’s political image at this particular moment.
On the surface this will sound like a good thing to a lot of people. But Mr. Lincoln was no benevolent agent for the black community. While the black community has been trained to love Mr. Lincoln because he was the great white man that freed the slaves, Mr. Lincoln was also a racist and a bigot who felt no inclination to truly abolish slavery and make the black community whole. Mr. Lincoln admitted that he was never in favor of bringing about social and political equality between the white and black races. Mr. Lincoln said he would never support voting rights for black people. Mr. Lincoln was a good example of racism of his time. Yet, his reputation for racial compassion remains one of the greatest products of propaganda in America. This man’s character has been so thoroughly whitewashed that the majority of black people are more than happy to worship this man’s name. The first black President worships this man as well, a man who said he would rue the day that blacks and whites would be free to marry.
So if such a flip of the original script can happen for Mr. Lincoln, why can’t it happen for Mr. Bush as well? History is written by people who control the present. The history of today will be written by people who control the future. If the people who control the future think favorably of Mr. Bush they’ll put so much spin on the reputation of his presidency that a black hole couldn’t suck up all the lighting used to favorably distort his image. The stench of this presidency will be described as little more than the pleasing fragrance from a thorn free rose. Mr. Bush too can be whitewashed. Depending on who controls the future all it takes is time.
History may have a long range perspective that passes stern judgment on tyrants and vindicates people who fight for equality and the end to oppression. That’s a pretty thoughtful expression and one we’d all like to think holds a lot of water. Vindication sounds good. But another thoughtful expression that holds even more weight is the one that says those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.
I really, really tried last night. But no matter how hard I tried to stay awake, the sandman would not be denied. I fell asleep about nine Central Standard Time, about ninety minutes before Senator John McCain gave his concession speech. I had fallen asleep on the couch and woke up to go to bed when I heard Mr. McCain’s voice. I don’t remember exactly what he was saying, but I heard enough, he was conceding. It registered on my sleepy brain that Mr. McCain, but I don’t think it registered that Mr. Obama won.
Ms. Peacemaker and I started tracking the polls about six thirty in the evening. Mr. McCain was first on the board with eight votes to Senator Barack Obama’s three. I think that was the last time Mr. McCain was in the lead. At one point, the polls had Mr. Obama with about one hundred electoral votes to Mr. McCain’s thirty eight. Mr. Obama pretty much was enjoying a two to one lead.
Now, I don’t know what officially makes a political landslide, but the 2008 election should be considered a prime example on the national scale. But all night long the people monitoring the election claimed that the race was close and that Mr. Obama failed to flip some crucially needed traditionally Republican voting states. When there were two hundred electoral votes for Mr. Obama and ninety for Mr. McCain, a few minutes before I lost consciousness, I figured all Mr. Obama needed was to win two more states, Florida with twenty seven votes and California with fifty five. With awareness quickly fleeing away I knew it was pretty much in the bag. It was virtually impossible for Mr. McCain to overcome his more than a hundred vote deficit and pull off an upset.
Regardless, I woke up to an expected surprise! The forty fourth President of the United States will be the first President who is not known as a hundred percent Caucasoid male. President Barack Obama will be the first visible minority President. More than two hundred and thirty years after the birth of our nation we finally have a little racial variety in our highest executive office. The historic nature of the occasion is monumental.
But then again, the challenges ahead of him and the rest of America are truly monumental. No President has ever come into this office facing the variety of problems that await Mr. Obama. Yes we may have had a President that had to face a great depression early in the twentieth century. Yes we may have had Presidents that had to guide the country through wars. But now we have an economic crisis of its own monumental proportions, a war fueled by differences in ideologies in two countries, a healthcare crisis with so many Americans losing everything including their lives, global competition as well as global animosity for the previous administration’s unilateral global policies, and so much more. We voted for the black man to lead the country after the last white man screwed it up so royally.
Voting for Mr. Obama is only the first step. He is not a dictator of a nation but a leader. His predecessor, President George Bush, was at one time fond of saying that he is the decider who controls the fate of this country. But if this election has done anything it has drilled home the fact that it is the collective people of America that are the deciders of this country. The President might feel like he, or surely one day she, can operate with personal impunity, but he leaves the rest of his or her party to face retribution. It wasn’t Mr. Obama who was the greatest contributor to the defeat of Mr. McCain but Mr. McCain’s association with an immensely unpopular President who explicitly and implicitly said that he didn’t give a shit about what the American public thought.
Mr. Obama goes into the presidency with the momentum of the world behind his back. This great victory was achieved with a great deal of effort and coordination of people around the nation. Mr. Obama cannot do it all alone. He needs the help of the American people and he needs to stay accountable to the American people. A lot of people supported Mr. Obama because they felt he was truly the best man for the job. But on the other hand, there are a lot of other people who voted for Mr. Obama simply because we felt he was the lesser of evils.
If anything can be learned from the story of George Bush it is that the support Mr. Obama may enjoy today can evaporate quicker than a snowball in the hottest pit of hell. He needs to remain focused and he needs to remember who he serves. It was the people who donated the most to his political effort. A lot of people wanted to see change. Business as usual is not an option. Two years from now there will be another national election and the Democratic Party that is firmly in charge of the legislature and the executive branch will be held accountable. I strongly suggest that he, nor anyone else in politics, doesn’t continue the tradition of taking the people for granted.
Who we are is just a matter of believing who we can be.
These were the words I heard in an episode of the cartoon Legion of Superheroes. A shape shifter from the bad side has infiltrated the Legion by assuming the identity of Superman. The subterfuge had been going on for so long that by the time the shape shifter’s cover was blown his evil ways were kicked to the curb and he wanted to work with the League to make amends for his previously evil ways. The shape shifter was experiencing a conflict of personality objectives until the leader of the super criminals showed up and fully restored the shape shifter’s original personality and any thought to be helpful to the League was forgotten with one exception.
As the leader of the criminals and the shape shifter returned to their headquarters the leader started ragging the shape shifter about his temporary desire to be helpful to the League. Suddenly, in one final act in defiance of evil, the shape shifter helped the League destroy a group of missiles that numbered into the thousands on a trajectory to destroy a planet of people unaware of the conflict between the two groups. There is no doubt that the planet would have been destroyed if the shape shifter hadn’t destroyed the key missile that triggered a domino reaction that destroyed all the missiles. The shape shifter returned to his headquarters and the League was left to ponder this final act of compassion. Why would someone who worked so hard to cause trouble would work so hard to help. I think it was Superman who said, “Who we are is just a matter of believing who we can be.”
Like most things I hear I started to apply this quote to the black community. Maybe who we are is just a matter of believing who we can be. Maybe if people in the black community simply made the choice to be the best educated people we can be then we will be the best. Maybe if we believed we deserved employment all of us will have jobs. Maybe if we believed that we have the right to walk down the street without being harassed by posses of the dominant culture we won’t be harassed by posses. That sounds so simple and too good to be true. The only problem is that the black community would be competing to be everything we wanted to be against a culture that wants to a dominator of the black community. We live in a world by the white, of the white, and for the white. This world will be and must be protected at all cost. And part of what makes many people in the white community feel better about themselves is the fact that the vast majority of the black population is in a situation similar to or worse than what they have to deal with.
Imagine what it was like for black people who believed they could learn to read and write back at the peak of institutionalized slavery on the American plantation. The common practice among white slave owners was to severely punish the African for having the audacity to learn how to read. But the African wanted to learn. Suddenly just believing who you can be is woefully inadequate when compared to someone who is committed to you being ignorant and less than your full potential. Africans who were caught trying to learn were suddenly sold away from their family and everything that was familiar to them. A black parent who caught their child trying to learn would reinforce the rule of ignorance out of fear that they could have their child sold away. The choice to be literate was a difficult one for many of our ancestors. And while some of our ancestors were able to learn, many of them paid the consequences of being able to read.
Black people who can believe themselves capable of operating outside the confining parameters defined by the dominant culture can be successful but they have to expend a great deal of fortitude to achieve their objectives. The black man that has the audacity to be the first to play major league baseball, the black woman who imagined herself being able to sit anywhere she wanted on a public bus, the first black man to be a quarterback in professional football, the first black woman to actually run for President, the first black man to earn the right to practice medicine and develop techniques for the first successful open heart surgery, black people working hard for the right to vote, black people working hard for an education or a livelihood, all these black people had to do a lot more than just believe who that wanted to be. They actually had to work against people strongly committed to keeping the status quo of black subjugation safe and in place. Some of these people struggled and were never successful. Many died working for what they believed.
A lot of white people have their own imaginings. A lot of white people imagine themselves free of black people. A lot of white people work to keep black people out of their neighborhood, out of their profession, out of their place of employment or education, out of their church, and out of their sight. The two imaginings are very incongruous. Believing in ourselves to be whatever we want ourselves to be is just the first step. Then there are all the steps necessary to make it happen. No disrespect to Superman but it is a lot more complicated than just believing who we can be. Sometimes black people have to go up against the very definition of modern society steeped in beliefs of racial prejudice. The white mindset, as practiced by people on both sides of the racial divide, will not capitulate to ideas of racial equality just because somebody believes it can happen.
Whether it is warranted or not, the Republican Party is not the favorite of the black community even though a major portion of the black community is conservative and promote conservative values. For example, my partner and I are not married even though we are committed to each other, we have a child together, and we might have another some day. But we feel that registering our relationship with the state and having it sanctioned by government is not necessary. However, my mother feels that we should make our relationship legal in the eyes of god. I don’t know what god has to do with the state. God doesn’t have an office in the state capital. But the point is that my mom will allow her conservative values to dictate whether my woman and I are welcomed to spend the night in her house together as a loving couple.
Another good example of the conservatism of black people is a woman I know who voted for George Bush as the forty third President because he took a firm stand against abortions and he was a devoted Christian. During the year 2000 presidential campaign, Al Gore made the mistake of selecting Joe Lieberman as a running mate. Mr. Lieberman is Jewish and this woman felt that being Jewish was being anti Christian and that would make Al Gore the anti Christ. And all those poor babies that could have been saved if abortions were outlawed. And many of those poor babies would have to go through their childhood with inadequate healthcare and a mother or parents who tries to make do on a sub-living wage.
I know black people who want to shut down the borders to keep all the illegal Mexican immigrants out of the country and save jobs for the black community. Ask these people if they wanted to pick crops all day hunched over a field that stretches off into the distance and they’ll reply with a “Hell no! But it’s the principle!” I know many black people who are dead set against the idea of raising the minimum wage. There are black people who promote the idea of low capital gains taxes so they can save a few pennies while billionaires save millions. And the number of black people who wear their hypocrisy on their sleeves is ludicrously high as they claim to that they want to protect the sanctity of marriage from homosexuals that want to express their commitment to their partner with the state. And yet, these same protect the sanctity of marriage black people turnaround and cheat on their spouses at the first opportunity. Some seriously conservative values indeed.
These black people that I’m referring to are not members of the Thurston Howell III jet setting black conservatives. I’m talking about people who have gone through or who are going through or who are just a relatively minor crisis away from going through hard times. You would think that the party known for freeing the slaves and for having the type of conservative, family oriented values that many black people support would have an easier time getting more black people on board with the Republican program.
But just the opposite is true. While some black people enjoy their secondary status within the Republican Party and are oblivious to the disparity between the black community and the white community that conservative policies promote, they standout like raisins in the sun. Take a peek under the roof of the convention center when the Republican’s are assembling and you see an overwhelmingly white pool of people. The few black people that you do see under the roof are more likely to have a dominant mindset that enables them to distance themselves from the majority of the black community. Five will get you ten that black people within the Republican Party are more likely to have a white significant other than the black people outside the party.
Even with all the similarities in values between conservative blacks and the Republican Party one point that seems to be at odds between the two is the insistence by so many white conservatives that black people are of a secondary class status and are of little importance compared to white people. While many black people in the Republican Party can easily and automatically pooh-pooh away any criticism of the way the Republican presidential administration fails to respond to the needs of black people, most black people are not so willing to overlook the constant barrage of offenses the black community appears to be subjected to. Yes family values are important to black people. But for the vast majority of black people it is just as important that the black community has the same opportunities to provide for our family’s needs and prepare our families for the future. The black community can’t do that if we are constantly denied or relegated to opportunities that do little but sustain our perpetual less than status in the economic hierarchy.
The Democratic Party is by no means perfect in its support of the black community. But there is a popular perception that the Democrats are more willing to acknowledge the conditions of the black community and are more willing to do something to give the impression that they are more sensitive to the racial disparity being suffered. Republican Party supporters may say that they are doing their best to help alleviate the disparity between the black community and the white community. Truth be told anytime there is a Republican in the White House the black community seems to suffer a variety of economic setbacks and slippages. It could be just an unfortunate series of coincidences. However it appears to me that the Republican Party would rather defecate on the black community than do anything to help. That would be too much like a sense of social conscientiousness that would actually help black people and such a concept isn’t a natural part of Republican Party policies.
When Phil Gramm slammed Americans for being a nation of whiners and having a mental recession mindset, he was body slammed hard and heavy by many pundits as well as the man he was campaigning for, John McCain. Barack Obama ridiculed Mr. Gramm saying America already has one doctor Phil. When people are losing their homes, their jobs, their ability to earn a comfortable living, and provide for the future of their families it is not a crisis of psychology. When people are having difficulty just buying the basics such as food and gas for transportation, it is a crisis of real consequences that can have repercussions for us all. For Mr. Gramm, no doubt a handsomely paid and wealthy individual compared to the average American, to dismiss the problems with people’s finances as nothing more than a mindset is to demonstrate a serious lack of compassion for others who are not as fortunate.
In essence, Mr. Gramm was trying to tell people to quit having a victim mentality and a lot of people took exception to his indifference to most people’s plight. No one said that Mr. Gramm might have a point. No one said that things would get better when everybody took more personal responsibility for their conditions although it goes without saying that we the people could have better prepared for these rainy days. More of us could have purchased more efficient living accommodations. More of us could have purchased more efficient forms of transportation. More of us could have used our credit resources more sparingly. Most of us could have done things more wisely. But should haves and would haves and could haves do little to help alleviate the fact that people are concerned about what they need right now. We can point the finger later but right now people need help.
The parallel between the current economic conditions of America compared to the economic conditions of many people in the black community since forever are similar. Black people have always been given rhetoric to quit being a whiner and pick ourselves up by our boot strap. Many people have the attitude that black people are just a bunch of whiners and need nothing more than to change. Despite the overwhelming evidence that says there is a fundamental economic dysfunction within the black community, regardless of the reason it’s there, most people are content to turn a blind eye and say this problem would not exist if people in the black community didn’t suffer from their weakness of character that prohibits us from rising to the challenge and meeting our problems head on.
It is a matter of public record that on average people in the black community earn only seventy eight percent what people in the white community earn. And that is if black people can find a job. The rate of unemployment in the black community runs approximately twice the rate of unemployment in the white community. Black people are much more likely to be incarcerated and to have less access to adequate legal representation. The lack of compassion for people in the black community is tremendous.
But now that the other economic shoe is free falling and more people in the nation are being impacted with the specter of unemployment, unaffordable housing, poor public education prospects thanks to the ill conceived program called no child left behind and the other maladies that are plaguing us as a nation, more people want reassurance and some understanding that their problems are not psychological but are real and our frightening.
Why doesn’t the dominant community take this rare opportunity to show the black community how easy it is to just quit being victims and whiners when there are no jobs available or when there is no money available? I believe there is a lot to learn here! Everybody in the black community can learn first hand how to get a job when the job market is shedding jobs at a rate of fifty thousand a month. We can learn how to balance budgets between income and expenses when there is no income. We can learn how the responsible people are paying for housing even though foreclosures rates are rising almost exponentially. And mostly of all, people in the dominant community can take this golden opportunity to show exactly how we should respond to uncompassionate rhetoric from someone who just doesn’t give a damn.
So far, the reactions from the dominant community have not been very educational or enlightening. In fact, if anything, the responses from the dominant community have been quite similar to the type of responses that would originate from the black community. I would dare say that no matter the skin color, when people feel like they could use some help, it would be appreciated if others would show some kind of empathy or concern for their plight. If anything, the dominant community demonstrates that when you are a victim, there is nothing wrong with having a victim mentality. Picking up a boot strap to lift your self out of a predicament really is pointless if there’s nothing to hook that boot strap to.
I absolutely positively cannot wait to get my hands on the latest copy of the New Yorker. The art cover features Barack and Michelle Obama in their true guise, at least according to a lot of less than well informed Americans who get their information from an institution of inconsequential integrity such as FOX News, more accurately described as the bizarro world news network.
Despite his protest to the contrary a lot of hardworking, white Americans cling to their bitter belief that Mr. Obama is a closet Muslim and Ms. Obama is a fist bumping terrorist who is also a Louis Farrakhan devotee and is the leader of the Chicago chapter of the Osama bin Laden fan club. Ms. Obama loves Osama so much she married a man whose name is just one letter away from the terrorist leader. I would not be surprised if there was a rumor floating about that she was set to live in Omaha until she realized it didn’t rhyme with Osama or Obama.
The magazine features an illustration from Barry Blitt named The Politics of Fear in which the Democratic presidential nominee and his wife are shown wearing traditional Muslim garb in the oval office of the White House, presumably after Mr. Obama won the presidency. The drawing of Michelle Obama has a huge angry black woman afro while wearing fatigues and combat boots with an automatic assault rifle over her shoulder. Mr. Obama is wearing a traditional Muslim headdress and attire ala Osama bin Laden style. And to top it all off the stars and stripes is shown burning in a fireplace blaze while Osama’s portrait hangs above.
The only thing the cartoon needs is little caricatures of Sasha and Malia. It would be the icing on the cake of comic fabrication to see the two girls depicted with bomb vests and copies of the Quran while wearing the traditional garb of Arab women. I know that they’re much too young to be wearing the covering from head to toe. But we are trying to drive home the point that the reality surrounding the Democratic candidate has been distorted to the point of severe absurdity.
This is not the first time the Democratic presidential nominee has been lampooned. Dozens of cartoons of the Senator from Illinois appear in various newspapers, weekly and monthly periodicals, websites, and elsewhere on an hourly basis. He has been satirized on Saturday Night Life. Comics galore stand in line to ridicule any weakness in his political armor. And even one of the hardest working white joes in the workforce is ready to make a dime off of this historic presidential run of an African American by plastering a picture of the monkey Curious George with the caption Obama ’08 on a t-shirt.
The official response from Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign referred to the illustration art as tasteless and offensive. If anybody has a clear reason for being offended by this lampoon it would be the Muslim community that continues to be slandered by an affiliation with terrorism and unpatriotic tendencies. Mr. Obama refused to give an opinion about the cover. Other people have made their much less than favorable opinion known. Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, many people will continue to unfairly associate his character with a negative stereotype without any foundation in reality. Not unlike the way Mr. Obama continues to hold fast to his opinion that black people need to take more personal responsibility for the conditions of the black community before the nation takes any social responsibility.
At the annual NAACP convention Mr. Obama reiterated his call that black people show greater responsibility for improving their own lives. Mr. Obama urged Washington to provide more education and economic assistance. He called on corporate America to exercise greater social responsibility. But he received his largest applause as he urged blacks to demand more of ourselves. Said Mr. Obama, “I know some say I’ve been too tough on folks talking about responsibility. NAACP, I’m here to report [that] I’m not going to stop talking about it. Because as much I’m out there to fight to make sure that government’s doing its job and the marketplace is doing its job, none of it will make a difference, at least not enough of a difference, if we also don’t at the same time seize more responsibility in our own lives.” I guess the other racial groups don’t have to have any personal responsibility.
Mr. Obama insists on holding steadfast to the notion that the black community is somehow more corrupt or somehow more irresponsible than any other race of people. A cursory glance at headlines would support Mr. Obama’s assumptions. But the headlines are controlled by a dominant community that would rather backhand people in the black community than extend a helping hand. We all could take more responsibility for our communities.
For example, Mr. Obama could have gone before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and tell the Jewish community that Israel could take more responsibility for ending the tensions with the Arab community and Iran in particular. Mr. Obama could stand at his podium and tell Hillary Clinton to take more responsibility for the debt she incurred when she campaigned against Mr. Obama. I didn’t see anybody say John Edwards or anyone else deserved a handout for racking up debt. What makes these other examples of irresponsibility so much more tolerable?
I seriously doubt that the problem of broken families in the black community is significantly more of a problem than the broken families in other communities. I have to admit that I have not seen any numbers on the subject. But if the propaganda that says black crime is so much more staggering than white crime compared to the actual crime numbers broken down by race is any indication, I have to say that unless Mr. Obama can produce some actual numbers from credible sources, all he is doing is reinforcing the negative image of the black community to his supporters who want to believe the stereotypical hype against black people.
There is little to support Barack Obama’s emphasis calling for more responsibility for the black community in relation to the level of responsibility in other community’s. No matter what the reality is Mr. Obama will cling to his supposition that black people are the most irresponsible community of people in America. So why would he of all people expect anything less from those of us who think he is a Muslim and his wife is a whitey hater with nothing to support their claims? The way I see it, what’s good for the slandered goose is even better for the slandered gander.