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Thursday, April 19, 2018

To Coffee or Not to Coffee

The things we forget.

I follow the news pretty closely, and as a Black man living in a society that keeps proving it wishes I'd just go away, any news involving Black men and injustice usually makes it on my radar.

So I am aware of the Starbucks story. Two Black men in Philly arrested at a cafe after a manager calls the police on them. Their crime? Sitting in Starbucks, and then wanting to make use of the rest facilities, without having paid the coffee chain a dime during their visit.

I've listened to both sides of the story ad nauseam this week. I get it. I laugh at conservatives who gripe that "these people" need to stop free loading, and I laugh at blactivists who think this is call for a revolution.

Full disclosure: I am a Starbucks patron. I've had business meetings there, as the two arrested Black men were waiting to do that Thursday. I wrote one book and finished another at my local Starbucks last summer. Starbucks for me is not about coffee. I worked briefly at an independent coffee house as an undergraduate, back when the earth was cooling. Starbucks, in my opinion, isn't selling coffee. Their coffee is just OK. They are selling WiFi and ambience and, frankly, really good people watching. By overpaying for some coffee you could better make on your home Keurig, you buy a pass to these amenities.

I haven't been to Starbucks in months, but every payday my Starbucks ap adds a sum to my credit balance with the chain. I like free stuff, and paying with the ap helps me get some. So when calls come over the media airwaves to stop spending with the chain, I'm a bit conflicted: technically, I've got triple digit credit in coin of that realm. Already spent. I can't get a refund. If I patronize the place, I'm not buying, I'm just cashing in. Decisions, decisions.

I've heard from my mother, my wife and some friends about "your coffee place" since the arrest. It was the kind of petty power move Black American men accept as just an inconvenience of living in this society. It was dumb. Honestly, though, it was the kind of lottery ticket folk like me pray for. A major international corporation (read: DEEP pockets) wrongs me publicly and puts my life in danger? I had visions of me driving in a Starbucks green Stingray with plates reading "PAYDFOR" while flashing my award winning smile.

It was too good to be true.

For me however, all I could do was curse my misfortune.

See, my habit at my Starbucks is to mobile order my drink from the car using my ap. Then I walk in, make a beeline for the men's room, relieve myself, grab a seat and arrange my stuff before strolling to the counter for my drink. In other words, I spend way more time in my local Starbucks doing stuff unrelated to making them money before I even grab what is supposedly my ticket to enjoy their facilities.

But can I get arrested?. No manager lucks me up by phoning the po-pos, who could put me in handcuffs while it's all being streamed live, thus guaranteeing that as long as I survive interacting with Law Enforcement, I'm assured FaceTime with the CEO and financial security that means my unborn grandkids won't have to work.

Thanks.

The most reward I ever got was the brilliant smile of the Ethiopian young enough to be my daughter every time she handed me my cup, assuring me she wanted my coffee made just the way I like it.

Damn.

So, having not visited in months, luck would have it I popped into my local cafe yesterday. I wondered why it was so empty. I did my usual routine, sat down, and began writing.

You ever felt all eyes were on you?

I couldn't understand it. Can't a Black man have a cup of coffee?

Then I realized, "Oh-I'm the only Black customer here. OH. Is it boycott day?"

I mean, even the Black kid who works there looked like he'd rather be somewhere else, but he had too strong a work ethic to call off. Boy, if looks could kill. He shot me daggers and a look that screamed, "Traitor!"

I continued writing my journal, barely aware of the well dressed Caucasian couple who sat at the other end of my table. Soto voce, the man began discussing the Philly situation with his companion. After a few minutes of "Yeah, that was bullshit..." "I agree, I'd boycott, you can't DO people like that..." and whatnot, I realized they were trying to communicate with me.

Oh.

I finished my journal entry, drained my cup, and left to keep an appointment, but I swear I heard applause as the vestibule door closed behind me. I'm pretty sure I heard the nasally voice of that one kid who couldn't call off utter the phrase, "Sellout Negro."

I'm going to need email alerts or something to remind me of this stuff. I'm also going to need folk to be a bit more consistent in their discrimination, so we can all get an equal opportunity to get paid.


Ya'll know better.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Is Anyone Else Seeing This?


Perhaps it’s just me.

There is something I noticed during the first Obama presidential campaign. When Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright was, like Jesus, caught up in a witch hunt based on circumstantial evidence, I was approached by a colleague as students were in the hallway changing classes.

“Man, you see this thing about this pastor? Man, why don’t he just shut up? They not gonna let him have it if this fool keep speaking out.”

Oh.

“Let him get it?” Wow.

For the record I respect the Reverend Wright as a pastor. Usually I found his sermons were historic, honest and relevant.

And damn funny.

This isn’t about Rev. Wright, however.

This is about us.

I have noticed a prevailing condition among Black American folk since before Mr. Obama made that train ride to Washington. Once this former Illinois state senator was confirmed as being on the roller coaster to political glory, the reaction from Black folk has been a bit puzzling.

Sometimes, I feel as if the world as I know it is slowly transforming into ‘Gone with the Wind.”
I have seen people grin wide. I have seen people bustle and shake their heads, Mammy like, talking about changes sure to come on a job. I think I saw someone flash dance backwards up the steps after being asked to fetch something.

I am contemplating investing in the watermelon business.

What is it, since Mr. Obama came close to taking office, with Black folk acting…I don’t know. Like they don’t want people MAD at them. Or something.

When my former colleague made his statement about “they not gonna let him have it”, I shook it off. It was odd, because such a statement from this guy seemed out of character.

After the inauguration, however, I noticed more and more formerly forward thinking  Black folk acting like something out of a Rochester skit. This has gotten progressively worse over the last four years, culminating in a radio interview I heard just after the re-election. A black PR strategist, on a Black owned radio station, basically was pleading the case that “we (Chicagoans) don’t need much substance…just the symbolism…if President Obama the next time he was home could play basketball with some kids from Englewood…”

Really?

My grandfather, before he passed two years ago, had every piece of Obama memorabilia in his home. T-shirts. Collectible plates. Coins. Half of that stuff was probably produced and sold by the KKK, but I understood: this was an 82 year old Black man who came North from Mississippi in the 1950s just hoping to make a better living. He endured the kind of discrimination on his job that taught Black employees to work hard, but not be too gung-ho. Your enthusiasm got you the honor of training your next boss, a guy half your age who didn’t look like you and who hailed from the same area and the same mindset you fled many years before.

I understand his unwavering support for Obama. This was a man who figured he’d fly to the moon before seeing a Black man as POTUS. Granddad also understood any real fallout resulting from Mr. Obama’s election would probably occur after his lifetime. Finally, a man who stood tall at a time when shucking and jiving were not buffoonery but good taste or at worst, survival mechanisms, wasn’t going to bow and scrape for anyone. He didn’t do it then when it could have cost him his life. He wasn’t doing it later so folk would like him.

I cannot understand how the Black folk who voted for President Obama posted witty slogans on Facebook touting his reelection but in public act like they are afraid of being the people they were a few years prior. At least when we didn’t have a Black president, Black people offered honest opinions, even in public, about society, the legal system and our lives. We would view a presidential administration with a certain amount of skeptical “What’s in this for us?” and wouldn’t shush each other down for fear that the outspoken opinion of one of us could work to the detriment of us all because we’d look like we had no unity.

This isn’t to the east Blackwards. This is up de stepses and sing Ol’ Smoky Joe, Bawse. Somewhere, Alan Keyes is sitting in a black beret and shades, sparking a fat one reading an autographed copy of “Malcolm X.”

Some of us got mad at Rev. Wright. Not because we thought he was lying. I guess we didn’t want “the peoples” to know some of us find this system broken. We see its potential. We are willing to fix it. But we are also going to call a spade a spade. No pun intended.

We got mad at Jesse Jackson. Lord knows there were times when we shoulda got mad at Jesse, but we chose to get mad at him when he spoke up about this Black candidate chastising Black folk like only we were obese, illiterate or coming from broken families. Keep it real. If he coulda, the Reverend would have LOVED to cut…well, you get my drift. That used to be most of us. Not anymore.

We criticized Black pols and pundits, but except for Al Sharpton, not one of the pundits who supported the president openly has been elevated to a Hannity or Levine status. Forget making them gozillionaires like Limbaugh.

What did we get in return?

Black people are telling people who once fought on their behalf, “Dude, be quiet! You making him look bad.” To hell with the hell we are catching. Huh? We are making it harder for the most protected, most powerful man on the planet. I thought we were making it harder on us.

Pundits who ask, “Hey, shouldn’t we ask for SOMETHING? Everyone else is getting some kind of hookup? Can we get a judgeship? Something? ” are threatened with being called race traitors. That’s like saying the Deacons for Defense were an offshoot of White Citizens’ Councils.

It is open season on Black pols and in exchange for the one at 1600 Pennsylvania the many are being hunted and dealt with like some kind of vermin. With nary a peep from the White House. Blood and claw marks are on the White House front door, left there by seasoned Black pols who tried to find protection from the hordes chasing them.

There is this pervasive attitude across the country where folk are ruder to Black folk than ever before. Things come out of folks’ mouths now that I only thought you could find in books. Old books. About the antebellum south. Great. Thankfully, we are collectively handling it with grace and aplomb. We’re smiling and being quiet so folk don’t take it out on the president.

Pretending the rats do not exist while they behave like rats only emboldens them. The same folk are getting louder and spewing more vitriol. I don’t mean conservative talk show hosts. I mean those folk you thought were your neighbors four years back. Being racist used to be a bad thing. Not anymore. People don’t care. Part of what used to keep folk in check was the idea that “I don’t like these folk, but if I say THIS in public I will get THAT reaction.” Not so anymore. “They got the presidency, I want my country back, and I’ma spew til it happens. Fear? Nah, no fear. Done are the days when these people get mad and react. They just take it.”

If I am wrong, consider this: Mitt Romney was one of those last reasonable Republicans.You know how we know he was reasonable? he was at the back of the room. You’d never heard of the man when the Republicans were a showing out, acting a fool. They wouldn’t let him come through the door, much less sit at the table. Democrats even voted this guy in in for governor because of the health care plan he implemented in Massachusetts. Imagine.

Ol’ Mitt decided to run a presidential campaign targeting the loonies of his party rather than any reasonable folk who would listen to him. Why? Because the crazies on the far right had the numbers. Mitt took the temperature of the country and saw Black folk were going backwards past Negroburg to Coloredville and white people were just acting a complete fool in response to there being a Black president. He might have had a chance had he run on, I dunno, being real. He’s got to be kicking himself daily now and remembering his mom’s lesson, “Willard? Everyone will like you honey if you just BE YOURSELF.” 

If I were Mitt’s campaign folk I would have targeted Black folk with ads showing us looking like…well, we ain’t taking it. 

“Aren’t you TIRED of smiling when things ain’t funny? Paid for by Romney for President.”

This whole thing is as crazy as when out of work broke Southern white males steadfastly rallied around W because “He’s one of us!” Not because he wears cowboy boots, too, Bubba.

Black folk? I miss you. When Black Chicagoans elected Harold Washington mayor, HE may have tried to accommodate, but WE were like, “No, you being there doesn’t mean we will give up our self-respect here. You govern but we will demand some respect from you and everyone else while we keep doing us. ”

I believe the president is a good man and has done good things. I am mad at so many of us acting as if his being in office means we have to act like “Pork” from “Gone with the Wind.” I am doubly mad at us as a collective for making a ton of excuses and not demanding anything but a symbol in return. So we take madness because we have to understand folk are pissed he’s the chief executive, and we get nothing from the guy in return?

There has never been a Jewish president, and AIPAC doesn’t care. As long as whomever is in office does right by their constituency, they are happy. I agree with that strategy. No Asian president but as long as their community gets its share of the pie, a Martian can hold office and they don’t care. Middle easterners have a snowball’s chance in hell of holding the land’s highest office but as long as immigration laws allow them to enter the country and qualify for citizenship provided they open a business and employ ten people (who cares if they are relatives?) they don’t care.

Black folk got a bright shiny symbol and nothing to show for it. Like a Bentley sitting in front of a tar paper shack. And we only get mad at each other when someone dares say, “Y’know, that don’t seem quite right…”

I’m wrong? Let’s check in with Alice Palmer, Van Jones, Susan Rice, Jeremiah Wright, Jesse Jackson Jr., and a few others in the know. Let’s look at other communities that seem to keep getting tidbits to keep them happy and loyal. Perhaps we oughta be as mad as some of those folk who think he stole their country.

Ya’ll Know Better


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's About the Kids? Really?

It’s that time of year again.

When I was a child, my brother and I were indoctrinated in the ways of Santa Claus. Like all individuals living under a dictatorship, we questioned the propaganda, but sang the party line, loud and clear.

We didn’t believe some 300lb white guy was coming down our chimney on Christmas Eve laden with just the gifts we wanted, but we were survivors. Friends who questioned the belief in the happy elf often received clothes. We got Atari 2600s, musical instruments and gift certificates to McDonalds. Damn easy choice.

Embrace the doctrine and get the goodies. Inform on those who do not and watch them suffer. My brother and I would have fared well in the USSR.

It’s different with my own children. My oldest ceased to believe when he was four, quite by accident. Often, with me, what comes up comes out. So when my son asked innocently, “Daddy is Santa having the elves make our gifts at the North Pole?” my response was typical of a new millennium father.

“Well, son, Santa is having union problems with the elves. Apparently those jokers want a better benefits package, and he couldn’t find enough contractors to break the strike.”

His face fell.

“Don’t worry, Big Man. I’ll stand in for Santa this year.”

He got the holiday equivalent of Fort Knox the next morning. He hasn’t believed since.

The following day, while on the expressway, we spotted many deer along the road.
“Are those Santa’s deer?”


“Probably.”

I saw my back window slide down and a little head pop out the window. “Stand in solidarity! Stay on strike! Thanks!”

Oh.

My youngest was in the annual Christmas musical.

“We’re singing ‘Feliz Navidad!”

Gravely. “Hmmm…”

“What?”

“Do you know what that means? Feliz Navidad?”

Eager nodding. “Merry Christmas.”

“Well, that’s what they WANT you to believe…” I generally do not do conspiracies, and as a lesson to my children, concoct some way out ones just to show them the sheer silliness of some of what people believe.

“Huh?”

"Yeah. It's really bad. It's code...for something else..." I told her.

“It really means that?”

“Yup. Whenever you hear that, it’s an insult.”

Slow 8 year old burn. "But aren't WE Black?"

“Yep. Do you want to hear the REAL song?”

Well, anger turns to laughter as I teach her the words. By the time we get home, the chorus is embedded.

I dropped her at home, headed to the store for eggnog.

Ring.

“Hey Hon!”

“OK, I sat back and let you lampoon Disney for them, making Gepetto the animated version of Jerry Sandusky. I let you portray Gumby and Pokey as gang bangers. I even turned a blind eye when you completely reconstructed ‘Davey and Goliath’ into something…awful…those poor clay characters.”

Oh, I’m in trouble. Again.

“But when you tell these children ‘Feliz Navidad’ really means ‘Black People S**k… and it’s a secret Spanish code song to eliminate them…”

It was a joke. I mean, who would really believe it? Oh, the 8 year old who thinks I’m the smartest think since SpongeBob? My bad.

Well, eliminate one more supportive vote for Saint Nick. And possibly the entire holiday season. I have created the world’s youngest cynic now who eyes her Latin brethren the way Seoul eyes Pyongyang. Great.

I couldn’t help it, though. Let’s be honest: there are people who say, “Let children be children”, and I concur.

I’m not sure this holiday is about children however.

Materialism? Maybe. Religion? Well, in a pinch, I’ll buy it. Family? Sure, but we all know how much family related anxiety pops up around the holidays.

Face facts: if this was really about maintaining childhood, our society would applaud parents who explain to their children the amount of love and sacrifice that goes into buying and doing things that just makes them smile. As a whole, we would spend less money at Wal Mart and more time out ice skating, or snuggling together by the fireplace, telling each other stories, drinking cocoa and laughing.

That’s not how it works. Parents are ridiculed for not allowing their children to believe some mythical third party cares so much about them he brings them gifts, as opposed to the folk who raise them. The people who make this splurge happen in spite of mounting bills, risk of unemployment and the other realities we all deal with while trying to raise our kids.

There's something culturally exclusive about this myth,a s well. Say what you want: there is no way mainstream America would allow their children to think happy thoughts about a Black dude (think Chef on South Park) invading their homes once a year and bringing their children gifts the parents worked to acquire.

It wouldn't happen.


If this was really about religion, we would discuss that although there is no shred of evidence that Jesus being born this late in the year. A time that corresponds with the pagan holiday practiced by the Romans who co-opted Christianity. Heck, we’d at least mention that Jesus never asked for an iPhone and there is no Biblical record of his parents celebrating his birthday once he arrived here on earth. There also would be more acceptance of the fact this person, the one whose momma took him to Black Egypt to hide when he was a baby, the one who a Black man helped carry his tool of execution(he was in the crowd, maybe he had something in common with the condemned?) and the one with hair like wool...if this was about the children, we'd at least acknowledge this time of the year that he did not resemble one of the Bee Gees.


Family? Wonderful. This is a time of year when we all gather. If this was really about childhood, however, we wouldn’t dread going to relatives’ houses, hoping no one says anything out of line. If this was really about childhood, that aunt who always gets lit and starts talking about how they weren’t favored as a child would remember there are kids present and stick to chamomile tea.

If this was about the children we'd really work harder on teaching our offspring the real value of this day is about giving, not receiving.

I am all in favor of my kids remaining kids. When my 11 year old had to buy pants in the men’s section this year, as opposed to the little boys’ section where the sizes are 12, 14 and 16, I made a conscious effort to not let his experiences catch up with his growing body until the time was right for him to handle both.

Spare me, however, “The holidays are for children. Kids should be allowed to believe in the fantasies and remain kids.”

As retailers sell more liquor than any other time of year besides Super Bowl Sunday.

As parents get children gifts that are more and more “grown” and less and less age appropriate every year.

As kids who were suspended for telling teachers “That’s why you had a baby wit’ yo’ daddy!” brag about the X Box systems they are guaranteed to receive for the holiday.

As ministers glide by members standing on bus stops Christmas morning, never slowing their speed in their holiday gift Bimmer 740s.

The holidays are what they are. Those who long for the good old days should have heard my grandfather share tales of getting an orange for Christmas in Depression era Eufala, Alabama, and being happy they would be able to eat all they wanted that night. If the harvest was good.

This Christmas, let’s forget the politics of the holiday and really try our best to make it about those basics, many of which are free.

Happiness, Family Cheer and Goodwill towards all.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reclaim Your Holiday

My conversation started with innocent enough intentions.

“Holiday plans?”

Few short phrases in the English language are as loaded. Perhaps “Are you late?” and “Did they convict?” come close to being as charged.

My friend’s answer was honest, if impolitic.

“My bad... was I supposed to have those?”

Ever the optimist, I pressed on.

“I was asking if in fact you DID. I can infer, using my acute powers of deduction, that you do NOT. Ah Ha!”

“Have 'em? That was the point. I didn't know that was supposed to happen.”

“Oh, yeah. Some folk house hop. Some have dinner at their home. Some are going out of town to be with family, some have family coming to town to be with them.”

“Wow. That must come from the Latin roots Holi- which must mean ‘tolerating ghetto/bourgeois-ass relatives’ and -dare which means ‘Oh GOD, not this time of year again.’"

Hmm.

You know what? For as long as I remember, this has been my least favorite time of year.

My favorite holiday memories, if I recall, are of one Thanksgiving where my small family and I travelled north of the border, where, at that time, it was not a holiday at all.

The other was a Christmas day when I was single, living in downtown Chicago. I spent half of the day alone in bed, reading. That evening, I went to my grandmother’s home on the South side, gave relatives their gifts, and after an hour or so of conversation (no, I did not eat), I returned downtown, treating myself to the late night premiere of “Jackie Brown.”

My aversion to the winter holidays isn’t because I have recently come across the origins of said days find myself appalled. In my family, we did history. We acknowledged early on the true meaning and histories behind these days of celebration. After gnashing our teeth in anger at both the facts and folks’ ignorance of them, we assuaged ourselves with the idea that family coming together was the real beauty of such times, not the historical ugliness and frauds that created them.

My mother wrote stories for my brother and me as children, detailing her own childhood holidays. Relatives would caravan from down south to Chicago, hordes of kids would be stuck on sofas and floors in sleeping bags, food cooking from 4am and fun until people fell asleep from turkey induced torpor. Love was thicker than turkey aroma in the air.

Those are just not my memories. I do not begrudge my mama hers. Growing up Black in Chicago during that era, those holidays and other family gatherings offset coming of age through an ugly period in our history. I am happy she has a fondness for days that could matter less to me.

I spent years thinking it was just me.

Time has taught me, however, many people my age don’t have those stereotypical memories of the Black holiday season, replete with “Soul Food” type dinner gatherings and hearty laughter and joy to spare.

They have the “Ohmylawd I’m stressed I gotta make this dish for dinner at my people’s house it’s taking forever I made it I dropped it off and lo and behold I get there and my sister is talking mess now I wanna fight her who does she think she is she does this every holiday…”

“My Uncle Pete and my cousin are in there at 2pm clearing out a fifth of Hennesy and come dinner time we are gonna have to pretend we don’t know they blasted as my uncle takes any opportunity (say, when served dark meat instead of white) to tell my grandma she never loved him because he was the darkest in the family. My cousin will start crying midway through because his wife/girlfriend/baby mama took the baby to her mama’s house for the holiday. No one wants to tell my uncle to grow up and repeat to my cousin he shoulda married that girl, so now dinner is ruined...”

“I can do my people, crazy as they are. My husband’s people are from planet Ignant, however. They come in trying to make you feel you’re nothing, with they trifling selves. They just nasty. Never bring anything, mind you, just show up ready to eat us outta house and home and then complain after they inhaled everything on the table…They leave ashes all over my furniture and I swear one a them babies was conceived in my coat closet...”

“My wife’s family bougie as all get out. You’d think, to hear them talk, this was a family on something. Please. They come in like Black royalty or something. Pulling up in a 15 year old Mercedes they bought used four years ago. They like to look down on folk cuz they so “educated”. Three of ‘em got associates degrees and the one boy who been working on his PhD FOREVER ain’t never held no job, and he’s pushing 40, and we know the one they keep saying is a minister is really the choir director, and you KNOW what THAT means…”

“We had just said grace when there was a knock at the door Pookie answered it and was told he had a warrant…they took him then with the turkey leg still in his mouth…”
“My brother and his perfect family come to my folks’ every year and love to rub how much better they are in our faces…”

Drunken relatives. Outside kids. Substance abuse issues. Infidelity. Abuse. Memories of a close relative who passed away during a holiday season. Angry recountings of someone who was hospitalized during same season for self destructive behavior. Someone can’t cook. All of this stuff has people dreading November 24th-January 1st.

For the record? These are associates sharing these tales with me. Such candor from people not really in my circle prohibits me from asking close friends what they think of this season.

What gives?

I acknowledge the holidays are not my favorite time of year, but I was recently reminded I will have to endure said period annually for the rest of my life. We all will.

So what are we going to do?

My friend made it clear. He is going to do his own thing, without family, without distraction and without drams.

Thanksgiving may as well be some Saturday in March, in that case.

A lot of folk, however, agree with his take on things. Lord knows that I do.

The only suggestion that I can make is not an easy one to implement.

Assess your holiday ritual. If it works for you, then follow it. Some of us have the patience and love to tolerate situations others want to avoid like the plague. Fair enough.

If your ritual does not work for you, however, it may be time to create a new one.

It may be time to have a small dinner with friends, as opposed to family. It may be time to quietly announce to Grandma you won’t make it for the holiday because you are going to try to start your own tradition. Bear in mind, the one your family has practiced for eons began somewhere. Call and offer your wishes for a nice holiday, and then try something, anything new, that may make for better memories. If you feel stuck because you live far from family and this is one of a few times yearly when you get to see them, make slight changes. Opt for staying at a hotel instead of with family. Buy something prepared as opposed to cooking. Set a time when, regardless of how the night is going, that you intend to leave, and make it clear throughout that you need to be back at the NoFamilyAllowed Arms & Suites by that time.

I think a lot of us have come to dread the holidays because they are excuses for having to endure behavior that is anything but celebratory. You can’t do anything about how others act. You can, however, control your exposure to them.

Times are hard. We all have challenges. Let’s try to find, at the very least, relaxation over the next over commercialized, food and drink sodden month or so.

Ending the holidays on a good, or different, note may very well set the stage for a happier more peaceful new year.

Is it really that time if year again?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Press Conference

“Next question?”

“Sir, what is your response to allegations that you have sexually harassed at least four women who were once in your employ? One of whom has come forward recently?”

Shaking of head. Then, that smirk. The one that closes the commercial where the white guy is puffing his cigarette.

“Are you for real?”

“I am. While your poll numbers have not taken much of a hit, some conservative pundits have expressed displeasure with you over this situation.”

That smirk again.

“What does your wife think of this?”

“Is it true that all of the women are white?”

The smirk stops.

“’Scuse me?”

“Reports indicate that all of the women are Caucasian. The one who ahs come forward definitely is. Do you favor white women, sir?”

Slow burn. Wait. Be easy. They got Clarence like this, kind of. Kobe. That damned fool, O.J.

Clear throat.

Smirk. Again.

“Yeah,” gliding chuckle. “It was me.”

Silence. Pens can be heard dropping.

“I mean, shoot. What ya’ll expect? I’m not exactly some school teacher here. I’m pretty much,” loosening of tie, “a self made man. In America, the true ballers are CEOs. WE tell Black kids they have slim pickin’s of being pro ball players, almost all of whom exclusively chase white booty. Or lack thereof. Have you any idea how hard it is to get to be CEO? I mean, even of a fast food chain. That’s some work. Hell. Kissinger said it best. Power corrupts. Ya’ll never give him a hard time over the white women.”

Someone is choking.

“Now, this gal outta Chicago? Mutual. I’m coming clean, no need to lie. I mean, had she NOT been into me, wouldn’t SHE have gotten paid, TOO? That damn pillow talk. You say things you shouldn’t in the afterglow. Like how the last couple who failed to come across got big paydays, but how all this one got was, well, hey, I got mine, you know?

“You all DO realize when I was in the Chi at a Tea Party event a bit back, she came up to me and gave me a big hug? Tried to suggest we hook up for old times sake, but those days are behind me, so I wished her well and kept it moving. Hell, someone in the media caught the whole exchange. Naw, she’s out to get paid. By the way, don’t think I’m stupid. No secret the only one to come public, aside from being a fake, is from the Windy. Who else is from the Windy? I think the new mayor there is someone’s dirty tricks expert, but I won’t name any names…heh…heh…heh…”

“Sir, aren’t you married?”

“Shoot, so is Bill Clinton. Look, I was on the road a lot. My wife and I were having problems. I’m a man. I’m alone, nice hotel rooms, money, power…I was pretty young, all things considered. Hell, I stepped out. It was wrong. Why you think I became a minister after all that? I was wrong, but I ain’t unique…

“Let’s call a spade a spade, no pun intended. If these were Black women, ya’ll wouldn’t even consider this news. I’m surprised.”

“But why white women, sir?”

“Dunno. Revenge for slavery? There are no Black women in pizza chain upper management? All Black women at that time were on the Democratic plantation and won’t give up any squishy goodness to a brotha like me? I dunno. Let’s keep it real. I was born in the south. I’m a Morehouse man. You don’t think I’ve had my share of Black women? Hell, I got one at home. I wanted to try something different. See what the fuss was all about…”

“Was it worth it, sir?”

“Kinda. Just expensive as hell, but it’s one of the CEO perks, y’know? They got insurance for that kind of thing. Pay your deductible and move on. Company picks up the premiums. Part of your compensation package.

"I will say this, however: I realized just how down sistas are. Moving forward, I'ma reserve my "plantation" comments for those chucklehead Black MALES. My wife is in my corner. Do you know Black female newscasters in Chicago are looking at this chick like, ' 'Why she come out now?' Nothing rallies Balck women like hatred of white women they think have dogged a Black man."

“But WHY white women?”

“Shoot, boy, you hard of hearing? Cuz they was THERE! Next question.”

“Does this have anything to do with 9-9-9?”

“I could comment, but I won’t. That one’s too easy.”

“Do you think this will affect you with voters?”

“Maybe, but I dunno. I mean, we’ve come a long way in this country. Some of the staunchest rednecks cheer for colored ballplayers who have white trash wives. Hell, some of the staunchest rednecks got sisters married to those colored ballplayers…”

“Rush Limbaugh defended you…”

“He should. Again, any powerful man who acts like what I done was a crime is a hypocrite, or same sex oriented. Don’t get me started on that.”

“But sir: WHITE WOMEN?”

“You never saw ‘Mandingo’? Been part of the plan since the beginning. Shoot. I’m an old school Republican. Before Condi or that cute Holmes gal, if you weren’t Lynn Swan and you wanted some off the reservation action, where did you go?”

“Do you think this hurts your chances to be President of the United States?”

“I never had any chance. We all know that. Well, anything is possible. Excepting that political Jackie Robinson you got residing there now, man, some real questionable characters have inhabited the executive mansion for the last decade and a half. Keep it real.”

“Do you think this was leaked now to cover up something that may damage another candidate?”

“You’re smarter than you look. But now that I’ve admitted it…my fallout is over. Let’s see how a certain other candidate deals with some mortgage issue fallout.”

“Like who, sir?”

“Is this good for the Democrats, sir?”

“Hell, I’M good for the Democrats. More people of color made sure their voter registrations were up to date once I started tying with Whasisface. The Democrats needed me to be popular just before the mid term elections. Remember, in politics, nothing is as it seems. We are all on smoke and mirrors. Also, this whole thing got real hot where? In Chicago. Hmmm…”

“Will the Koch brothers drop you after this?”

“My brothers from another mother? Naw. Please. With all of their money, you think they didn’t know about this way back? I’m a candidate, ya’ll. We walk the streets and lay like we’re told to lay. The money people know all there is to know about us. Hell, who do you think sent me some of those women?”

“But white women…”

“Get off it. The last time I was with a sista half my age I got two hernias and SHE blew MY back out. Uh uh. Plus, all of that is behind me. Things happen in marriage all the time. We work it out. Ya’ll the ones foaming at the mouth cuz they white. I just saw a chance to score.”

“Any closing remarks?”

“Keep your eye on the ball. None of this is what it seems.”

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Herman Cain May Be Right...Not That It Will Help

OK, the field of national politics has me alert and paying attention.

Usually, I reserve my alertness for local politics. Which is a redundant phrase. In Chicago, we have done what no other local politics was capable of doing: we gave the United States a Black president. Well, and openly Black one. Not one of those few that may have had a drop or two of Black blood so, by law, they would have been Black, just never racially profiled while trying to get in their own house in Cambridge…

I digress.

We have a black president. National politics. We have a Black man from the opposing party running for the nomination for president, and making a strong show of it.

Herman Cain.

Herman Cain reminds me a lot of my grandfather. Black men who grew up with nothing. In the south. Saw unfairness and racial evil that would have made Al Sharpton’s perm nap back. They learned early on that people who oppress you do not like you, and people who do not like you are not likely to give you anything. What you get, you get on your own. Getting on your own under those circumstances tends to make you view those who knuckled under as weak. Those who seek the approval of the oppressor are subhuman. Those who feel they cannot make it without the oppressor’s help, well, they may as well be dead.

It has to be a hoot to look at the very people who gave you hell coming up and saying, “I beat you at your own game. Now, I am on the national stage, making you look stupid.”

I get Herman Cain. I do.

I dig the fact that he is truly an American success story. I like that like my grandfather and other Black men of that generation, Mr. Cain has the cojones to call it like he sees it. Right or wrong. Do you ever remember your grandfather telling you and your cousins something you knew was crazy, but he didn’t give a hoot? He stuck to his guns and called it as he saw it? You’d be thinking, “That’s a crazy old man,” he’d be steady going on, “I’m right on this. Ya’ll see.”

That’s Herman Cain.

It’s not just his “Let Me Walk All Over Those Weaker than Me” attitude. When Cain disses Black folk who didn’t have the gumption to make it through hard work and whatnot, he is dissing those white folks who haven’t reached his pinnacle, too.

“What? I’m 'sposed to be scared a YOU? Didn’t you inherit your money, BOY? And YOU? Wasn’t your DADDY the GOVERNOR or something? How is it I made millions coming from nothing, and ya’ll can’t hold ya own against ME? I mean, haven’t ALL of you people had a bunch of advantages I could NEVER dream of having, yet I have bested YOU? Hell…weren’t YOU born WHITE?”

I get it, Rev. Cain. I do.

Which is why, when publishers of urban newspapers say, “Well, he has said he won’t allow any Muslims on his cabinet!”, I am forced to think, “Are there any Muslims there now? What about under Bush 43? Or Slick Willie? I mean, heck, just as Judaism is passed on through the mother, Islam passes from the dad, making the president the only person with any Islamic affiliation, and hey, he converted as soon as he knew what religion was. Man. Mr. Obama wouldn’t even stick with his own Black nationalist pastor that performed his wedding. You really think he’s gonna hire some Muslims?”

I get it, Mr. Cain. I do. When you suggest your 999 plan, and Black folk jump on it because they think its racist (I mean, c’mon…it’s a Republican plan, it HAS to be), I think, “Hey, wasn’t Congressman Chaka Fattah, a Democrat, trying to push transaction taxes as a way to invigorate the economy?” Racist? With a name like Chaka, I don’t think he has a Klan application on file.

Chairman Cain, I understand you are just calling it like you see it. When you say, “Black folk are just using racism as a reason to not achieve. Racism can not hold ya back if you don’t let it!” What do they expect you to say? You endured worse racism than most Black folk can imagine, and you are now giving it to white folk in spades. You defied a bunch of the silly stereotypes that have become synonymous with modern day Black folk. Things like having no respect for marriage. Expecting much for working little. Complaining about how people don’t like you but expecting those same folk to provide you with jobs, housing, etc. Making excuses at every turn. Not understanding business. None of that is you. Your success, your money and frankly, your lifestyle is bothering more white people than it is Black folk. You’re probably grinning inside the whole while.

I understand all of that. Hey, I agree with it.

I just can’t vote for him.

Why?

Well, for one, Cain isn’t going to win. I like to roll with winners.

Two, while the whole dump Rev. Wright thing bothers me, and while folk haven’t figured out Mr. Obama is a Chicago Democrat, which means talk blue but acts red, and while Black folk haven’t figured out POTUS # 44 has been dissing them worse than Cain ever could…

President Obama is a homeboy. I mean, we Chicagoans stick together. Period. Dot. Even when you let the Daley machine pull your strings. As a Black man, hey, I understand. We all work jobs where we gotta do what we told. Sometimes, working that job as best you can does nothing for your patience with people who won’t work at all. Especially those you risk your job trying to help.

I have admitted to some social conservatism in my writings. I do believe Black folk need to stop this overwhelming support of the Democrats simply on the basis that they are, well, Democrats. All Democrats are not good. All Republicans are not inherently evil. Many voting Black folk are quite conservative, regardless of what party they choose to support.

My issue with the GOP, Mr. Cain, is this: some pretty decent Black folk have allowed themselves to be poster children for this organization, only to be tossed aside like old charcoal that is no longer needed to cue anything when the party is over.

You disagree?

Remember Richie? The architect of the recent Republican electoral victory. His own party was so grateful that from minute one they let some entertainer with a penchant for prescription painkillers pimp slap him silly, thus forcing him to become both the party’s whipping boy and savior.

What about the young man from Oklahoma? Boy, they trotted you out to refute the claims of our “First Black President” (insert laugh track here) and let you take on anybody Black the party had no use for. I mean, look: we know these people love their sports heroes. They loved you, their Black token paragon of equality.

Where ya at, Son? Haven’t seen you in Congress lately. Party didn’t have your back, huh?

General? I still hold you in the highest regard. An old lion like you, however, should have seen in coming. Do they even allow you to cross the threshold of the United Nations anymore, sir?

So while, as a Chicagoan, I can quickly admit the Democratic Party isn’t a host of angels, I have to say, at least, if it suits their needs, they will offer some person of color to shine. Dick Daley used to brag that in his Chicago, there were Negro police captains, fire lieutenants, and elected officials. Sure, they had to toe his racist line, but it was better than down south, where they had the same racist thinking and wouldn’t even let you drink out of a fountain, much less run your own area. Democrats are the good party. Don’t forget it.

Is that foolish of me? Sure. It was foolish for a bunch of rednecks to vote for George W. Bush, thinking that because he liked cowboy boots they had so much in common. He still got eight years out of it. My loyalty to Obama can’t leave the country in as bad of a bind as their loyalty to Bush did.

Plus, again, I like to be on the winning side. Here in Chicago, if we want our guy to win, he wins. We will steal the election if we have to. Sadly, we won’t have to.

The Grand Old Party’s track record is pretty abysmal on their Black wunderkinds. I can see them congratulating themselves on their egalitarianism for inviting Cain to the dance. Then trying to lynch him for doing the slow grind with their sisters.

Regardless, after I cast my ballot, I will hear my maternal grandfather, his voice firm, saying, “This old fast food these companies are pushing will be the death of a once healthy country, mark my words…These prisons will one day be like a return to slavery, people with no rights collected together to do work for pennies and make others millions…One day, these projects here in Chicago will all come down, and only the wealthy will be able to live in those areas…That professional wrestling is really fake…I’m right on this, ya’ll see.”