Monday, August 18, 2008

Black and White

This weekend I was talking politics with someone when they mentioned that Barack Obama shouldn't bring up his race. They were speaking specifically to the incident where Obama said that he didn't look like the presidents on the US currency. I responded by saying that Obama doesn't have to bring up his race. His race is clearly evident. People have to come to the understanding that there is a huge difference between being white and being black in our society. I can understand that most intelligent people would like to think that our society is in a place were we can look beyond the color of someones skin when making a decision as important as who will lead us for the next four years. I would like to think so too, but I don't have the luxury of living in a world where skin color doesn't matter. As I've written here before, there's a big difference between saying people should have equal rights and believing that they're equal. The biggest lie that our forefathers put in the Constitution was that "All men are created equal". They didn't believe it when they wrote it (because it only applied to a certain type of White male) and most people today certainly don't live by it. The line should have read, "All men are created equal, but some are a little more equal than others".

There are those that will accuse me of being a whiner or playing the victim card or the race card (whatever the f&^K that means), but until you've had to walk a mile in the shoes of someone else, you shouldn't judge them. The question I would ask is how many indignities does someone have to suffer before they have a legitimate right to complain? How many times does a society have to show that it considers you a less valued member before you can cry foul? How many times do have to be made to feel almost sub human before you say enough? How many times do you have to passed by for less qualified people who just happen to be white before you have the right to make some noise? How many times have I have heard people say that the racial problem would go away if people would just stop bringing it up. That always amuses me because it reminds of the attitude of many Southerners during the civil rights era. There are many quotes from people saying that there was no racial problem in the South. It was those agitators from up North that were stirring up the blacks. It's amazingly easy not to question a system that works in your favor. I have lived in NYC for 30 years and you would be amazed at the number of times that a minority has been "accidentally" shot or otherwise abused by the police. The amazing thing is that during all of the time that I've been here, there has never been an "accidental" shooting or incident of brutal violence by NY's finest against anyone who wasn't "of color". I find that an amazing coincidence. And I might have chalked it up to coincidence if I hadn't been subjected to sub-human treatment at the hands of the NYCPD myself.

There are those that will say that now that Barack Obama has become one of only two people vying for the presidency, it proves that we no longer need affirmative action programs. That is as silly as pointing to Tiger Woods as an example that Golf is now open to everyone, without acknowledging the fact that there are hundreds of private Golf clubs that wouldn't allow Tiger Woods to become a member because of the color of his skin. Or pointing to Oprah and saying that her popularity shows everyone has the same opportunity to succeed. The exceptions are the ones who prove the rule. Obama didn't succeed because of the color of his skin, he succeeded in spite of it. In spite of all the roadblocks that this country throws up at people of color, he has managed to overcome them and rise to an as yet unimagined level.

Barack Obama is constantly being labelled in the press. He's too intellectual, acts too white, too thin, too liberal, too elitist, too inexperienced, too condescending, too... something. He's too something alright. Recently John McCain went to a biker convention and in his nonsensical ramblings, basically said that he'd rather be there than be speaking in front of a worldwide audience in Germany. So basically in front of 50,000 white people (who I think would probably give a bad name to rednecks) he bad mouthed Obama for trying to reach out to the rest of the world. He also offered up his wife to compete in a contest that usually devolves into nudity and swallowing various phallic items. Let's imagine how the press and the American people would have reacted if Obama had done something similar. Let's suppose he appeared at the fictional "Monsters of Rap" tour in Atlanta in front of 50,000 black people and said McCain was wrong for visiting Iraq because he was playing politics. Let's assume that he then went on to say that he'd rather be there addressing the MOR audience of real Americans than being in front of a bunch of well wishing foreigners any day. And then he offered up his wife to compete in the "Miss Bootylicious" contest because he was sure she could win it. Do you believe that the press and American people would have treated that as just "Obama being Obama"? Do you think they would have thought that it was "kind of funny"? Do you think this story would have been forgotten in a day? That is the double standard that Obama is dealing with. McCain is seen by too old as some people, but when he does things that actually shows that his memory may be faulty, those are seen as slightly humorous "senior moments". Being too old is not seen as threatening at all, but being "too black" rings all the alarms among the American public.

The reality of being black in America will not change after November 4th. It certainly hasn't changed because Obama is the Democratic nominee. There is some notion in the press that this is some kind of transformative event, but even if the improbable happens and Obama were to win, the facts on the ground would remain the same. The richest of us will continue to maintain and grow those fortunes on the backs of the poorest of us. Racists and bigots would continue to be racists and bigots. Who you know is still going to be more important that what you know and the police will continue to "accidentally" shoot and abuse minorities. I would hope that the legacy of an Obama victory would resonate with the youngest of us. They would be the ones who would grow up in a country where they wouldn't question whether the highest office in the land can be occupied by a woman or a Hispanic or any person who is not a white male.

This piece is probably a little more rambling than I would have liked it to be, but I'm just God damned tired of people trying to tell me what me what my reality is. or why I shouldn't feel the way I do about the police. Or why we don't live in country where the color of your skin can give you an advantage. I don't live in that fantasy land. The real truth is that America can be deadly if you happen to be in the wrong place and are the wrong color. Do you think that we would have heard of either John McCain or George W. Bush if they were born into the same circumstances as Obama? Comedian Chris Rock tells a joke about the fact that there wasn't one white person in his audience who trade places with him in spite of the fact that he was rich. That may have been intended as a joke, but it is also the reality of America. And that my friends, is the truth.

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