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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.”


“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…”


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

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