Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Don't Want a 'Black' President

-I saw that look come over my coworkers. Reverend Lowery had just finished the inauguration benediction with his dream of the day "when white will embrace what's right." One person asked if he really said it. Not since OJ was acquitted by a "jury of his peers" had I seen a racial divide like the one that silenced that room.
-Until that point, the discussion had been light, and a bit hopeful, in spite of the fact that while the media world was celebrating, the stock market was demonstrating their faith in the new administration by tanking. I didn't hear one person say anything to diminish the moment by criticizing the new Prez or the process even though many there probably didn't vote for him. Other than one woman who sang a gloating "good-riddance song" to the outgoing president she saw as scum, there was no meanness or negativity.
-I'm guessing the minorities in the lobby became uncomfortable after the speech, because they didn't stay long. Soon after, the discussion I feared began. "Perhaps it's time for BLACK to embrace what's right.", one older fellow got right to the point. That started an avalanche of tirade against everything from the United Negro College Fund to Al Sharpton. Some of the perceived slights to society I'd never heard, and some were poignant.
-Someone wondered if any black folks considered how blacks came across in the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. Instead of the community rallying to rebuild on their own, the image that sticks with many is the chant for help from the stadium while cops and criminals alike plundered the flooding city. Hundreds of thousands left, and there is growing resentment from the neighboring cities that took them in, while FEMA was targeted for a slow response, and ineffective city and state governments emerged relatively unscathed.
-Another story concerned how all of us remember the "victim" felon Rodney King, the recipient of a beating by some burned out cops, but nobody remembers the name of the innocent truck driver pulled from his truck and bricked to death by race rioters.
-Affirmative action: Hiring preference, scholarships and quotas were deemed unconstitutional, ineffective, expensive, and ultimately, just wrong.
-Yesterday, M. L. King day was celebrated. While the man should be recognized for his contribution, there are other cultural icons that are just as significant to other groups. The man suggests that people start a "cultural heritage holiday", and equally fund an "Irish Studies" program at the university instead.
-Another is disputing, Cosby-like, that blacks are considerably more represented statistically in prisons, gangs, fatherless and teen families, drug addiction, welfare rolls, and even mortgage foreclosures because they are victims. NPR (supposedly) aired an article with a guest describing loan officers "targeting" blacks with adjustable rate loans as if they are more easily influenced to make uninformed decisions.
-Cultural sensitivity to the use of "hate" words by whites, but not other races, was brought up. Racial hate crimes, by law, can ONLY be inflicted by whites in America against other races, not the reverse. A sportscaster was crucified for verbalizing the truth that slaves were bred (more than a century ago) for strength and brains. Instead of choosing to see the factual comment as a verification of superiority in athletics (and by implication, OTHER competition), black leaders chose to focus on the farm animal aspect, and exploded with indignation. Of course, Imus resurfaced. If he had only added "In comparison with Tennessee" (a more conservatively dressed, groomed, and coached team), his "nappy headed hoes" attempt at being hip wouldn't have become another dance party for the Jacksons and Stringers of the world.
-Oprah as victim even came into the discussion. She supposedly lost a portion of the viewer share when she endorsed Obama, purportedly due to racism. Nobody mentioned that the other viable candidate was a woman (day-time TV, Hello?) or that some very strong competition entered the talk show arena during that time frame. The Oprah phenomena in itself demonstrates the opportunity available today for blacks.
-Now, as racist as some of you may choose to believe this sounds, it didn't feel that way. No one was name calling or offering to pitch in on a ferry to Africa. There was no hating on black individuals, and no racial discussion at all of the man, Obama. There is true hope, even among this group, that the country will be successful under the leadership of this man. There is also some sadness that the good reverend's handlers were allowed to offer such divisive comments while the new administration is pleading for united support.
-Now don't get me wrong. I'm fully aware that the election of a multiracial president is a civil rights milestone. I'm not naive enough, however, to believe this event will salve the pain and guilt of the last two hundred years or erase the hate that still exists in some of every race (in equal numbers, imo).
-This president is definitely up against it. He's got enough to tackle without having to deal with people being obstructionist because he's black, or having to waste resources pandering to civil rights activist group's demands. There's a checkered history of black political leaders, from Colin Powell to Marion Berry. The new president doesn't need those comparisons. He will inevitably be described as out of touch with the "real" black experience while being simultaneously condemned for his deemed excessive civil rights support. Black artists and celebrities will expect more inclusion to the D.C. social scene, and appointments to office will be filtered through a racial screen.
-Thus far, this president has only managed to get elected. (No mean feat!) By that standard, G.W. is accomplished by comparison. Much of what G.W. is being reviled for was out of his control, but such is the legacy of the man standing watch when disasters occur. Could he have been a better leader? I certainly think so, but history will tell more of the tale. Unlike so many, I don't have any God-like aspirations for President Obama. I do believe he has handled himself with grace and polish thus far. His appointments have been surprisingly balanced. He is moving quickly on the easy fruit of Guantanamo. So far, after such a very short time, he is a president I can be proud of.
-And that's what I want. A leader. A statesman. A public servant who makes decisions based on what the ENTIRE country needs, not any minority group or PAC. Someone who respects the office (listening Bill?) and the constitution, and all of the citizens who need him. I need someone who can make decisions with the knowledge he will be accountable for them and criticized for them, and open to that criticism without the expectation he will be protected from it because of his race, his political party, or his "mandate". I want a PRESIDENT, not a black president, or a liberal president, or an ivy-league president, or any other-special-interest-adjective-you-wish-to-apply president. And I want him to emerge from his term(s) without anyone feeling it's necessary to focus on his "blackness" to celebrate our successes.
I dream of the day when the Sharptons and Jacksons of the world will be irrelevant, when century old crimes (and thirty-year-old reverse discrimination) will be relegated to history, when affirmative action programs, OJ trials, hate crimes, and the use of nigger/cracker labels will draw equal disdain. The point is that whites HAVE increasingly embraced what is right over the last fifty years. Yesterday's event culminated that process, and for an administration preaching unity, it was probably a mistake to poke sticks at anyone. I'm excited for the change, and truly hope the nation prospers because of it. But no amens from me for the sermon. Until the pendulum swings to the center, "preachers" don't preach hate, and equality isn't governed, then the resentment will fester. I also think it's past time for gloating, thumping the last Prez, and celebrating the election results. We have plenty of work to do without giving ANY group an excuse to stand on the sidelines or obstruct. Some will do so anyway, but let's not help them recruit.
-Update: Ok, I wasn't aware that the "poem" wasn't original. That changes the intent a bit, from taunting more to just celebration. I was around for the sixties, but my diverse schoolmates and I were oblivious to racial hatred. Lucky us.
- Update to the update: It seems I've stirred some emotion with this post. Somebody feels I am incapable of understanding my position of privilege in our society. The point of the post was to look forward with a purposeful unity, and I shouldn't bite the "privilege" bait, but the box is opened, and my view is as valid whether you wish to hear it or not. First, I've never been a slave. Neither have any of you. I HAVE been made to feel uncomfortable in public places of business because of my race, and choose to not visit those establishments again. I'm in a unique position to watch the workings of large corporations, and my observation is that females, people of color, and folks with non-traditional sexual orientation have at LEAST as much opportunity compared with WASP males. Don't believe it? I SEE it every day. At least in my corner of the world, concerning the great civil rights causes of the sixties, that bus has left the station. Activists still beating the drum provided for them by previous generations are just making background noise, but I suppose there a few loose ends to tie, and I'm all for passionate involvement. However, if you look with a skeptical eye, you'll find a lot more hate being generated from the activist sites, churches, and the civil rights organizations than from what has become a VERY tolerant American culture. (I'm excluding 1000th% fringes here) I understand that gay marriage and abortion are tipping point issues, but while very important to a few, there are LARGE problems in America that NEED to be dealt with NOW.

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