Warning: Rant Ahead I've got to vent somewhere. I might as well do it here. The political events of the last couple of weeks have left me tired, disappointed in the American people and not so proud to live in American in 2008. The American people seem to be falling for the same old political crap we always say we're tired of and I'm sick of people saying one thing and doing another.
The last couple of weeks, I've seen an historical political candidate who seemed to be able to transcend race and who was going to be judged solely on his merits, systematically forced back into the box. Attempts have been made to frame Barack Obama as the "black candidate" by Geraldine Ferraro and then by whoever put together the videos of Reverend Wright. I thought America was ready to take a huge leap forward on one of the stupidest issues of all time- race. I was excited. I was energized. But, as I read the comments in the blogosphere and listen to the news, my hope is slowly being sucked out of me. We seem to still be stuck in the quagmire of our past and some people are just not ready to move on.
Contrary to what some will believe, I am not an Obama supporter because *I* am a black man. The fact that he is a black man does play a role in why I am a supporter. I will not deny that. The fact that his candidacy is historic and his election would represent a huge leap forward for America does play a part in why I support him. We can argue all day about whether he's an empty suit. I'm prepared to give you my reasons why I think he is far from it. Hope is just one thing Barack Obama offers us. He also offers great intellect, compassion, wisdom and the ability to work with people. He represents everything that is best about America. He's multicultural and from a working class background. If Barack Obama is the least bit qualified to be President (and based on his resume alone, he is as qualified as many good ones we've had before), the bonus is that he would show the world and America just how far we've come. That's not affirmative action, Ms. Ferraro. Just being black doesn't mean you should get the job. But, it also doesn't mean you should be subject to extra scrutiny.
Because of the race issue first raised by Geraldine Ferraro, Obama's supporters have been characterized as guilty white liberals and blindly loyal black folks. Barack Obama has shown remarkable restraint (as he has to) in the face of these attacks. As a black man, he can't afford to let his anger show because he'll scare people. I know how he feels though. I remember the white guys in college telling me they wished they were black so they could get the affirmative action scholarship I got. I was given incentive to go into engineering because of the color of my skin. That's true. But, I also had a 4.0 GPA coming out of high school. Think that might have had something to do with it? They talked about how successful my father had been. What they didn't know was my father could not get a job in an accounting firm when he graduated from college because they didn't hire blacks. He had to go into a different field than his degree was in. So, yes, he was successful. But, he had to work harder to get there. This was in Ohio in the 1960s, not the deep South. So, yes, we've all felt what Barack talked about yesterday, in some way shape or form.
Effectively what these attacks on Obama have done is gotten the swing voters to question whether they want to vote for the "black guy". Especially the angry black guy! Brilliant strategy if you're a win at all costs kind of person. The videos of Reverend Wright put Barack Obama between a rock and hard place. Of course, he knew Reverend Wright had said some things that would make white America nervous. That's obvious. Barack did not place him in a prominent position early in his campaign. The Reverend and Barack discussed that Barack might have to distance himself publicly. But, Barack Obama loves this man, in spite of his flaws. None of us is perfect, including our spiritual leaders. If I were running for President and were trying to gain the support of the homosexual community, I'd hate for videos of what has been said from the pulpit of the Vineyard Community Church to be played to characterize my views on homosexuality. Or, their views concerning Eternal Torment for all "non-believers" to be played as evidence of my hatred for anyone who is not Christian. Unfortunately, for Barack his pastor didn't say bad things about gays or non-Christians. He said bad things about white people. And, he yelled them. The ultimate faux pas.
Let's face it, people, the race issue is a distraction. It was trotted out there by those who are so desperate they are ready to play their trump card. They know the wounds concerning race are still there just waiting to be ripped open. And now they've done it. Instead of talking about the issues today, all the headlines are "Is white America ready for a black President?" Great. That's just the face we want to show to the world. If Barack Obama a biracial man raised by white people, who grew up in Hawaii and went to Columbia and Harvard (not exactly bastions of blackness) agrees with his pastor, he's done an excellent job of hiding his views for decades. No one can find a single word he has said or written that shows he holds any of the views expressed by Reverend Wright on the tapes. Don't you think they've tried?
So, why am I a mad Black man today? BTW, for those of you who don't get it, the reference it to Tyler Perry's movie "Diary of Mad Black Woman". We (black people) don't get "angry". We get mad. I'm mad because the distraction has worked. Americans are so gullible that instead of passing this over and saying we're not going for it again, many of them are swallowing it hook, line and sinker. It doesn't mean Obama's campaign is over. But, what it does mean is right now he is working twice as hard as Hillary Clinton or John McCain. That's a familiar story to all of us black people. Because of what his pastor said, he has to prove to "white America" that he's worthy to be in the race at all. White people often wonder what black people are so angry about. This is a prime example, people! White people ask "Why can't they just get over it? Slavery ended over 100 years ago. We gave them the vote years ago. What more do they want?" (I'm not making this up, I saw this almost verbatim on YouTube this week). What we want is for being black to not be a disadvantage. What we want is to stop having to apologize for just being who we are. The peek white America took inside a black church shocked, appalled and scared them. Well, as a black man who has lived most of his life deeply immersed in your culture, I can tell you that I've heard much worse from the lips of a lot of white people when they either forgot or didn't know I was around. Yes, black people are angry. Some of us a little. Some of us a lot. But, almost all of us are angry some amount, some of the time because sh*t like what is happening to Barack Obama keeps on happening and we're tired of it. All we want is to be judged on our merits and we are tired of having to work twice as hard and being held up to unreasonable standards. The black church is one of the few places many black people can let down and be themselves. Especially black people who, like myself, have crossed over to live out here on the frontier of Whitedom. I live in a community that is less than 4% black. Think about that for a moment. When I'm out in my community, less than 4 in 100 people I see look like me. Yeah, I chose to cross over. No one forced me. Why? Because it's where the economic opportunity is. Because there are no upscale black communities in Southwest Ohio. Because to advance in the dominant culture you have to speak the language. As Reverend Wright pointed out in his Christmas sermon, black people have to learn to be bi-cultural. I'm pretty good at it. So good I've alienated myself from my own culture to a certain extent. But, then what's happening to Barack Obama comes up to remind me that I'm not really accepted in yours either. I'm not some black separatist radical. But, am I mad? You betcha. Especially today.
Yesterday, Barack Obama showed a great deal of class and chutzpah. Listening to his speech and thinking of white America's reaction reminded me of the words of Jack Nicholson "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!". I cringed as he opened talking about slavery. I was surprised he admitted black people have been angry. I thought he was masterful the way he included everyone in his speech. White, latino, immigrants and blacks. I just read a blog that said the speech showed Barack Obama has spine. I saw that. But, what I also saw was that Barack Obama has faith. My understanding is he wrote the speech himself and that some of his advisers disagreed with parts of it. The one criticism of Barack Obama is the man is not truly a great politician- at least in the way we've come to know politicians. He seems to have an incredible faith in the American people. He thinks you're smart enough to see through stupid tricks like the Wright videos. He thinks you can digest more than a 20 second sound bite and listen to his speech in its entirety, in spite of the way they pundits have already parsed it and pulled out divisive headlines from a speech that was solely about healing and unity. He thinks if he shows he's a man of integrity rather than a masterful "politician", you will do what you said you'd do and vote for the man with integrity. He thinks he can win an election without smearing his opponent. Today, I just don't know. I hope he's right. Time will tell. If he's wrong, I'll be sorely disappointed in America and remain one mad black man.
p.s.- for the purposes of this article, I used rhetoric to make a point. I am not defining myself as "a mad black man". In fact, I am a quite happy black man. Anger is just one of the emotions I feel at times and this is one of those times.