Somebody Has To Say It…

August 1, 2008

Much Sillier Than You Imagined, Senator Obama

A couple of months ago, when it became apparent that in spite of Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary denial of reality, Barack Obama would be the Democratic nominee for POTUS, I predicted that around the end of September we might very well see some of the ugliest behavior in this country since the height of Jim Crow.

I was wrong…we didn’t make it that long. Having been mystified by whatever message John McCain was trying to send with the Obama-Hilton-Spears joke of an ad, I don’t really believe my fragile psyche was ready for this.

The fear-mongering right has long been spewing the “Obama is your messiah” nonsense, but, and maybe I’m more naive than I thought, I didn’t believe McCain and his minions would resort to such tomfoolery. But there’s the proof, and as someone once said “He’s reached rock bottom and started to dig.”

Desperation is pretty much universally an ugly thing, but when it is emanating from someone who aspires to be leader of the free world, well, it’s downright abhorrent. At this point, McCain is not only engaging in the lowest form of campaigning, but he appears to be quite happy about it– kind of the “pig in slop” syndrome. Of course, as I’ve said before, Senator Obama is nobody’s fool– especially not McCain’s– so in his usually dapper and unruffled manner he is showing that he knows better than to wrestle with a pig (or argue with an idiot). He continues to take the high road (although the face on money quip was definitely a good one), continues to talk about real issues and what he plans on doing about them, and continues to carry himself like “The Man Who Would Be President” ought to carry himself. In contrast, Senator McCain apparently knows even less about dignity than he does about Middle East geography– and that’s saying something.

I would love to say that this is as bad as it gets, but let’s be honest– by November I wouldn’t be surprised if McCain is telling “Yo Mama” jokes and passing out Oreos, all the time claiming he’s just pointing out the “differences between myself and Barack.”

A couple of days ago, Obama made a profound and insightful statement: “It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.”

In November, we have a chance to show the world, and ourselves, that we can rise above the mistruths, gimmicks, and mudslinging that is steadily characterizing this presidential campaign, and indeed return to our best traditions while restoring the world’s faith in America.

But until then…stand by.

 
 

 

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July 13, 2008

I may as well comment on Jesse Jackson, too.

I saw a funny thing on the net today. There was a picture of the good Rev. Jesse, in front of a microphone as usual, with a caption saying “Rev. Jackson– Sen. Obama hasn’t spoken with civil rights leader about his comments.” A little further over was a picture of Senator Obama, looking suave and relaxed as usual, with a caption that read “On Recession– Sen. Barack Obama is pushing for another economic stimulus package.”

I could stop right there, and I think most of us would recognize the difference and the symbolism of it all, but I’ll keep going for posterity’s sake. Okay, are you ready? Here’s the bombshell–

Jesse Jackson doesn’t matter.

    

 

 Of course, most Black people, especially those with any semblance of socio/politico/cultural understanding (and here’s a surprise mainstream media– many, many, many of us do) already are well aware of that, and get peculiar amusement from watching the various clueless talking heads running to get the good Rev. Jesse’s opinion. But this past week brought us into not a new arena, but certainly one we thought would be publicly avoided. You see, several months ago, when Barack Obama’s campaign was just a trivial tremor on the political map, and not the full-scale earthquake it’s grown into, I wrote (on another forum) that the “Old Black Guard” (or OBG) would, sooner or later, start actin’ ugly. We’ve already seen Blackellectuals like Tavis Smiley doing the “he ain’t the right one” song and dance. And of course there’s old Bootyshakin’ Bob Johnson, who probably doesn’t have a bone of cultural conscientiousness in his body, but who acts like money makes him a spokesman for Black America. Those two were fairly predictable– in Tavis’s case, I suspect he had begun believing that he was going to be the “Next One,” and is a bit miffed that Obama beat him to it. And Bob is stupid rich. You know how that is.

It’s the OBG, though, that I felt posed the biggest threat to undermine what should be (and really already is) the most historic event of our generation. Let me explain where the OBG comes from. Since the death of Dr. King, the dogfight to be “Leader of Black America” has required at least one of three things:

1) the term “Reverend” in front of your name,

2) well-known affiliation with the NAACP, SCLC, or Urban League, and/or

3) born and raised in the south, specifically Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, or Louisiana.

Senator Barack Obama fits none of that criteria, and the OBG who “marched right beside Dr. King and been on the battlefield of civil rights all my life” are not just resentful, but downright hateful. Now, prudence maintains that no matter how acrimoniously they view Obama, that rancor had better remain private. For some of them, like John Lewis, sooner or later there’s going to be an election with their names on it, and the people who vote (and pay attention to backstabbing) are going to make them pay. For young OBG’s like Tavis (in the club because he survived growing up in Mississippi), it means black listeners calling Tom Joyner and telling Tavis to shut the hell up. But what about the good Reverends, especially when there is no actual church to lose? Jeremiah Wright? Retired, and then proceeded to try and throw Obama as far under the bus as he could get him. Al Sharpton? Since the beginning there have been rumblings out of New York about Rev. Al’s jealousy. At least one source says he told Obama to “Stop grandstanding in front of White people” when Obama called for non-violence after the Sean Bell verdict. But to his credit, even Rev. Al crawled out to criticize Rev. Jesse after the latter’s deer-in-the-headlights moment on Fox News. You mean you didn’t think the microphone was on? And a camera too?! What do you mean you heard me whispering that ghettofied foolishness and then making a motion like I was cutting hair under the table?

Yes, Rev. Jesse, today you look like a complete fool– but that’s to the mainstream media. To Black people, you look just like you did the day before – an egotistical, arrogant, underhanded hypocrite willing to do and say anything for fifteen more minutes, historical opportunity be damned. Fortunately, most of the OBG has the common sense to avoid such a scenario, but you– well you just don’t know when to say when.

June 23, 2008

Waiting for…?

Milwaukee

I’m sure there are hundreds of images of the flooding in the Midwest, and in those hundreds there are many faces representing the utter devastation these people have faced and continue to endure. Yet, this is the first one I’ve seen that featured Black people, and frankly, it is beyond discouraging.

A couple of weeks ago, a poster on a forum that I visit quite regularly (okay, twenty times a day) opened a thread with the title “Am I a Racist?”  I’m going to print verbatim what he said:

This morning, when I was watching the news, I first saw a news flash about the floods in Iowa, I was completely floored. I prayed for the people who were evacuated, and whose homes were destroyed. I then made the comment that “the level of water was comparable, if not worse, than that in New Orleans after Katrina. However, Iowa is full of white midwesterners, so I doubt there will be any looting. Furthermore, these people will more than likely be quick to rebuild instead of waiting on Fema to show up and fix it. While New Orleans still looks like a war zone, I am willing to Bet that Grand Rapids looks the same it did last week, if not better, inside of 8 months.”
After saying this, and realizing that I believed it, I asked the question, does this assumption make me a racist?

After a bit of back and forth, the subject moved to affirmative action, and its impact on Black society. I then posted the following:

The problem is that in spite of its stated original purpose (a temporary forced righting of the ship), it has become institutionalized, with only a small percentage of people each year/generation managing to leap out of its quagmirish cycle. Many of us know that it needs to go, but without some support system in its place, it will result in immediate levels of economic destitution for millions of Americans who, having never had a reason to become self-sufficient, will have no idea where to begin. This is not what Dr. King wanted. Never once did he campaign for affirmative action or handouts– just for a level playing field. What we got has done immeasurable harm to black society, which for 500 years survived because of its ability to adapt and overcome.

In fairness, the picture above, and the apparently bizarre circumstances that surround it (http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=764962) are from Milwaukee, not Des Moines nor anywhere else in Iowa. Approximately twenty percent of Milwaukee’s one and half million residents are Black, yet the pictures of this morning’s debacle show no other apparent ethnicities waiting in line for a handout. Further into the article, it states that 92 counties in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Indiana have been declared eligible for the Disaster Food Stamp Program. I wonder if the scene in Milwaukee played out anywhere else. Are non-Black flood victims in other counties standing in line all day because they “heard vouchers were being given out?” Maybe, maybe not. I have no way of knowing, and to be honest, I would not trust the mainstream media to publicize such events if they did occur.

However, I’m concerned about us– Black Americans. As a people, have we been conditioned to wait for help? Do we lack the resourcefulness, knowledge, and/or desire to overcome adversity on our own? For hundreds of years, we could have given up, but we didn’t. Now, with opportunities standing before us that even Dr. King couldn’t have dreamed, are we resolved to stand with hands outstretched and palms upward, dependent on “somebody” to fix things for us? Yes, I understand economic disparity. Yes, I understand substandard schools. Yes, I certainly understand abject poverty. But I also understand perseverance and self-determination, and I’m wondering where it has gone.

The flooding in the Midwest has wreaked complete havoc on lives. That is beyond debate. For many people, Black, White, and everything in between, there was no time to prepare or plan. Such is the nature of natural disasters. I know that if such a disaster were to strike my town, I, too, would be struggling to protect and provide for my family.  Maybe the people in Milwaukee were facing a level of desperation with which I simply cannot identify, and maybe that desperation is what caused them to begin pushing and shoving, injuring some people as they fought for a handout that wasn’t even there. Again, I don’t know, and really, much of what I’m writing is just conjecture because I’m not there to see it for myself.

But something about this picture bothers me, deeply.  For now, I’m just going to read more and think more. Maybe tomorrow no one will be waiting.

 

 

 

June 20, 2008

Barack Obama is Not Angry…

Senator Barack Obama is many things. He is a skilled orator, a visionary with star power, and a brilliant politician and skillful strategist. However, he is not angry, and that is what scares you.

The Angry Black Man is America’s unnamed, generically black-faced boogeyman. We see him on the evening news– that menacing dark face that seems devoid of care or concern. We see him on athletic fields, ferocious and violent in his quest for physical superiority. And we see him on the streets, the weight of years of malevolent thoughts crushing his dreams and aspirations until, predictably, he explodes in mindless rage, giving you the license you crave to lock him up, discard him, and remove him from your civilized society. As fearful as you may be of the Angry Black Man, you are most comfortable with him, because society nods its collective head in agreement as you put him safely away from your wives and children. Yes, the Angry Black Man is the perpetual threat to your way of life, and for five-hundred years you have continued to justify your disdain for him.

Barack Obama is not an Angry Black Man, and you have become desperate in your attempts to drive him there. America knows that Minister Farakkhan is the angriest Angry Black Man of all, but try as you might, you could not link Barack Obama to him in any sensible way. Then you found what appeared to be your trump card, Jeremiah Wright. Oh, in a YouTube world, he personified anger as no other could. So you trotted him out on your stage, inviting him to speak for no compelling reason, at least to the layman. But you knew that if you gave him a chance, he would show that anger one more time. We can ignore the fact that many Black men of his generation are disappointed in this land of milk and honey, and that Black ministers near and far explode in similar fashion each Sunday morning. Jeremiah Wright was your connection, and you threw him in Barack Obama’s face with a vengeance.

But Barack Obama is not an Angry Black Man, so his reaction was not what you expected. Why, you challenged his church! He had to lose his cool, didn’t he? No, he didn’t, and when he reacted with calm, with reason, and with eloquence, you became unnerved. You attempted to link him with the supposed religion of a father he barely knew. You posted photos with vague and misleading (often fictional) anecdotes. Even now you are circulating the most ludicrous story of all, alleging that the Senator has been planted by your other convenient boogeymen– Al Queda. We know that there is no low that you will not dig under, but this seems absurd even for politics. Sadly, however, it doesn’t end, because when you realized nothing else was working, you attacked the one thing that surely would anger even the most stoic of Black men. You attacked his wife.

But Barack Obama is not an Angry Black Man, and he is also not an ignorant Black Man. He saw your intent long before you fully realized it, and steeled himself against your nonsense. He warned you, simply and without vitriol, to leave his wife alone. And that was that. Barack Obama knows that an Angry Black Man not only cannot stand in front of America, but he cannot even stand with America. You would cast him aside in abject horror, your women and children cowering in make-believe fear as you, the Hero, leap grandly forward to protect them from the boogeyman you’ve warned them about for so long. That is what you are so desperately waiting for, praying for, begging for before November. So you cast mindless dispersions, initiate unsubstantiated rumors, and rekindle decades of illogical racial fears. Each claim is more outlandish, more outrageous, more ridiculous than the previous, but that doesn’t matter, because contrary to what many people think, you are not employing Hillary Clinton’s Kitchen Sink theory. You know that your claims lack substance, and that you and others are simply playing a game of political fish stories, where decorum, morality, and basic decency are, at best, subject to interpretation. You are not really concerned that the unlearned and easily misled among you will be swayed by these tall tales. No, your objective, pure and simple, is to make him mad. You need him snarling and agitated, eyes bloodshot and bulging– the very essence of your boogeyman.

But Barack Obama is not an Angry Black Man, and that is what really scares you.

April 29, 2008

Whew! Never thought I’d be gone this long….

Let me begin by apologizing for seemingly abandoning my own blog. When I started it, I figured I would have no problem pontificating daily on the issues we face. What I didn’t take into account was that I was also beginning a 21-hour education certification program. Now, over the last year I’ve written no less than 40 essays, but every one has been for one of those classes. Some of them, particularly in an Educational Diversity class I just finished, should make it onto this page pretty soon. However, now that I’m finally done with that program, I look forward to saying those things that somebody needs to say– and wow, where do I start?  Here’s a hint– only one group of people on this planet is truly capable of derailing Barack Obama’s bid for the Presidency, and they look just like him.

August 12, 2007

Influence vs. Power

I was on another board, Quimoto.com, and someone asked if Condaleeza Rice deserves a “pass” from Black people.  You know, we are amazingly quick to demand that other Black people look out for our interests and our interests only, no matter the position. Strangely, people like Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas are singled out as “sell outs” and “Uncle Toms” if their agenda doesn’t overtly jibe with whatever Black Americans are currently screaming for.

We are quick to compare them with Oprah, Bill, and Cornel, but that’s comparing apples and oranges, or in this case, influence and power. Oprah has influence, and a whole lot of it. If Oprah likes your book or your music, instantly millions of devotees run out to buy your book or music. Oprah runs a vast multimedia empire, and has enough money to do just about what she wants to. However, Oprah’s power is limited. A handshake from Oprah doesn’t signal an armistice; Oprah’s signature doesn’t indicate the United State’s agreement to lift trade sanctions; Oprah’s mere presence doesn’t indicate the U.S’s tacit approval of a regime.  No, that’s power.

Bill Cosby also has lots of money, and as “America’s Dad” he wields tremendous influence both in and out of Hollywood. Bill is traveling around the country, visiting and speaking to Black people and advocating that we take responsibility for ourselves. Russell Simmons has a similar message. But Bill and Russell don’t make decisions that can radically define or alter the Constitutional framework of this country. Their opinions are just that–their opinions, not legal dissertations that may fundamentally change the very rights of millions of people.

Many people, especially in the Black community, automatically associate money with power (throw in respect and you’ve got yourself a song), but the reality is that money can lead to influence (if you have it, we want to know how you got it, and maybe we’ll listen to anything you say just so we can figure out how to get it too), but power is entrusted to a very few, and getting in that club is a lot more difficult than we are willing to admit. The two often overlap, but let’s be clear, they are separate and distinct measures.

Colin Powell had (emphasis, HAD) power, realized that it had been usurped for the Bush Aministration’s agenda, and he traded it in for influence. His presence no longer means what it did as Chairman of the JCS or Secretary of State, but it does mean something.  Barack Obama has limited power (he’s only 1 of 100 Senators), but rapidly increasing influence; however, his clear and unmistakable goal is to trade up for power. And yet, both of these men, accomplished as they might be, have their “Blackness” challenged on a daily basis.

To suggest that Condi needs a “pass” is a slap in the face to every Black person who has chosen education and hard work over pointless rhetoric and  free handouts, . Whether or not I agree with their political stances, I can, without reservation, point my children in their direction and say “Yes, it is possible.”  Funny, we don’t challenge Bob Johnson’s “Blackness,” even though he may have done more to destroy Black America than any other Black person alive. We don’t question Jesse Jackson’s “Blackness,” even though his agenda is, at best, questionable. We certainly don’t question the neighborhood drug dealer’s “Blackness,” and wow, I wonder what he’s doing to uplift our people?

The reality is that influence tends to be much longer lasting in our eyes than power, since it is less subject to political ramifications. But it is power, so rarely attained by Black people that most of us don’t truly understand its ramifications or requirements, that changes the world.

August 9, 2007

This is your brain…this is your brain after BET

Filed under: BET,Education,My thoughts — rricejr @ 9:42 pm

Last night, for the first time in at least 2 years, I watched BET for more than 10 minutes. In particular, I watched Hell Date, S.O.B, and that hallmark of shows, We Got To Do Better AKA Hot Ghetto Mess.

Everyone take a moment to sigh deeply, then we shall continue…

Hell Date really is funny, although the two midgets in devil costumes are downright moronic. Still, I found myself laughing as the actors continued to ratchet up their performances from slightly strange, to kind of weird, and finally to downright public insanity. In the end, everyone is let in on the joke and no harm is done.

S.O.B., like it’s host D.L. Hughley, has some pretty outrageous performances, but his commentary is so heavy handed and preachy that the show loses all appeal. Here’s the deal: if you want to make statements about our wavering morality, especially when money is involved, you need to do so without cliched comedy sketches.

Now, that brings us to the heavily and widely panned We Got To Do Better. No matter what criticism you’ve heard of this show and no matter how strongly the wave of public opinion against it–it’s still not enough. That’s right, the English language probably does not contain enough words of condemnation to accurately describe this crap. Apparently, in their infinite bottom feeding wisdom, BET felt that simply changing the name (even though the imbecilic Charlie Murphy still calls it Hot Ghetto Mess in his commentary) and removing that incredibly insulting blackface would be enough to make this show palatable for those of us intelligent enough to know the difference. However, I’m guessing that someone in the Massa’s House (otherwise known as Viacom) called in that collection of Sambos who came up with this mess, then advised that they needed to tone down the comedic atmosphere (Charlie Murphy’s supposed to be a comedian, isn’t he?) lest they further offend the land. The result is insanely ignorant behavior, both intentional (viral videos) and unintentional (man on the street interviews), surrounded on both sides by Murphy waxing philosophically about our need to “read and study.”

Believe me, the irony is not lost. As Richard Prince points out (http://www.maynardije.org/columns/dickprince/070725_prince/),
one reason why so many of our Black people can’t answer the most basic Black history questions is because they’re busy watching BET, which has never met a news show it wasn’t willing to cancel. Bob Johnson even justified cancelling those shows by emphasizing that the “E” stands for “entertainment” and “no one was watching.” Here’s a thought, if you really are concerned about the same things Bill Cosby is concerned about, try showing something other than booty shaking and fourth rate comedians.In slightly more than a week, I’ll get my next batch of students. Of the 460 or so that we expect in this year’s class, about 12 percent will be Black. Most of them will not be from disadvantaged homes. In fact, most will have two parents, unlimited internet access at home, access to books and museums, and no viable excuse for failure. Strangely enough, that won’t stop several of them from trying to give me one when they don’t score any higher on our state’s exam than kids in the lowest performing schools over in the hood.  But let’s make one thing crystal clear–until we all begin to make education a priority, and not just something to do in between texting and downloading, our kids will continue to do poorly in reading and math while excitedly rattling off this week’s top ten on 106th and Park.

You know, BET did get one thing right–We’ve certainly got to do better, and we can start by turning their hood rich butts off.

Welcome to my backyard…

Filed under: My thoughts — rricejr @ 9:14 pm

Okay, so I’m a brother who has always had plenty to say.  Well, I finally found a platform, so here’s hoping that whatever I say, those of you who happen to wander by here will feel obliged to engage in some dialogue. Everything won’t be about the issues surrounding Black America (I do like a few other things, with Jazz and literature leading the list), but sooner or later, that’s what it’s going to boil down to.  When things ain’t right, somebody’s got to say it, and it might as well be me.

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