Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pride & Joy

Martin Luther King, Jr.Image via Wikipedia
Someone asked me (rather sheepishly- she did not want to be politically incorrect) how Black people feel about the election of Barack Obama. Are we proud? Are we thrilled? The answer is most of us are both proud and thrilled. However, maybe not for the reasons you think.

Before I get started I need to point this out. No ethnic group is monolithic.  And it minimizes us to think that we are. There are a few conservative black Republicans. Many of them were torn by this election. They wanted to be a part of history. But, they felt they had to stay loyal to their conservative views. They were not going to vote for a candidate that didn't represent their view just because he happened to have a father from Kenya. And, I say "good for them." They need to have their heads examined for being black conservatives. But, they stuck to their principles and they should have.

But, as to why most of us are thrilled, proud and encouraged, you might think it's because we have proven that black people can qualify for the highest office in the land. Barack Obama was the first black person to be the President of the Harvard Law Review, too. Something else to be proud of. But, the reality is that there have been dozens, hundreds dare I say thousands of Black men and women with the qualifications to have done the things Barack Obama has done. Not to take anything away from his brilliance. But, while he is uniquely qualified (among both black and white people), he is not the first black man to be the smartest person in the race, the most passionate person in the race, the smartest guy on campus. I don't want to start naming all the exceptional black people in history because I don't have the time or the names and you don't want to read all of them. And listing them will give the impression the list is all inclusive. The point is we have been qualified for all types of jobs for a long time before this past Tuesday and even before the civil rights movement. The election of Barack Obama is not cause for celebration because black people achieved anything. That is anything other than finally being given what we have been qualified for for a long time.

The reason to be thrilled about Obama, the reason to have pride about this result is that we have finally reached a tipping point where the promises made in the constitution, the dream of Martin Luther King and the things we tried to legislate in the Civil Rights movement have finally been taken into the hearts of the majority of our country. The pride, for me, comes in the fact that America has matured enough to reach the point where we judge a man by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. The civil rights movement laid down the law. But, until there is a fundamental change of heart, no law can truly provide equality in a land. There are covert and subtle ways to continue to oppress a minority as long as the majority holds power. An election is the ultimate popularity contest. Kind of like American Idol. Paula, Randy and Simon can sit and pontificate as much as they want about who is the best singer.  It might even be clear in their performances. But, when it comes down to it, Americans, in the privacy of their homes, can choose the absolute worst for any reason they want. No matter how qualified a candidate may be, in the privacy of the voting booth, I don't have to give my reasons for voting for the other guy. That is the thing that scared so many of us about this election. We are elated to have been proven wrong about what Americans would do when no one was watching over them.  Earlier, I said, we had reached a tipping point.  It doesn't mean race is irrelevant anymore.  It doesn't mean we don't still have struggles ahead.  But, I think rather than an uphill battle, we are on the downhill side of this struggle now.

So, my pride, my joy is not in what black people have accomplished.  Black people have accomplished so much more than most whites and many blacks even know.  I'm not proud of Barack Obama because he's black.  Being black is an accident of birth.  It's nothing to be proud of.  My pride and joy is in what America did on Tuesday.  My pride, my joy is for the fact that we showed the world that we are progressing and we have progressed. I've always believed a black man could be qualified to be President.  What I didn't really believe is he'd be given the chance, this soon. 

I have to admit, the election of Barack Obama will elevate the self-esteem of black people tremendously. Even though technically he is bi-racial and he is not descended from slaves like most of us, he has been categorized as one of us. A black man raised by a single mother who worked his way through Harvard and into the Oval Office will be an inspiration for millions of young black men (and older black men). I cannot wait to see the impact it has on this generation.  This is a fringe benefit of his election.  A big fringe benefit that will pay dividends for year and generations. Already, black men have a little more pride in their steps.  Already they are using words like accountability and personal responsibility a little more.  There are those who need role models, who need to see it done to believe they can do it.  For them, this is something much needed.  But, it's not the primary reason black people are thrilled with this outcome.

As an aside, I want to talk about the "racism" of Obama getting over 90% of the black vote.  Yep, I've heard that claim.  It's racist that Obama got most of the black vote.   Of course there were those who voted for Obama simply because he was black.  There were those who registered to vote simply because a black man was in the election.  But, keep in mind that the vast majority of black people voted Democratic in the first place.  This goes back to the debt of gratitude we owe the Democratic party for including us in the vote in the first place.   That's the beginning of it.  Then, you have the modern Republican party who has basically told us it doesn't want any minorities.  And there are other reasons.  But, anyway, the Democratic candidate would have gotten the bulk of the black vote no matter who they ran.  Personally I would never give a candidate my vote based solely on the color of his skin. I would not vote for Jessie Jackson or Al Sharpton to be the head of the  local PTA. But, in voting for Barack Obama, I knew I was voting for the best candidate when he ran against Hillary and when he ran against John McCain.  The fact that he is black was just a bonus.

So, yes, today I am full of pride and joy.  Not pride in my race, but pride in my country.  Not joy just for the fact that this was a leap forward for black people.  But, mostly joy because it is a major leap forward for all people in America.  What brings me the most pride and joy about this moment in history is something we can all share, black, white, latino, etc.  This is not just a day for celebration by black folks but by all Americans interested in true equality and the end to our racist history.




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13 comments:

Kansas Bob said...

I join you Brian when you say..

"Not pride in my race, but pride in my country."

..of course this conservative may also need to have his head examined :)

brian said...

Nah, Bob. Your head is fine. But, I realized I probably should have used the word Republican rather than conservative. I cannot understand black conservatives (Republicans). To me, one of the tenets of being conservative means keeping things the same. I cannot understand, as long as things are as unbalanced as they are, not being progressive, wanting to move forward.

Sometimes, once black people get money, they become Republicans. It's in their own best financial interests. You see very few poor black Republicans.

Kansas Bob said...

Interesting thoughts Brian. Maybe the dialog would be a bit different if we changed the setting from politics to how people lead their lives.

I submit to you that many folks are conservative.. as I suspect you are.. in the way that they lead their lives. They pay their bills on time and lead modest lives not buying things that they cannot afford. Yet these folks are also often very liberal in their charity.

Of course "conservative" and "liberal" have taken on a whole new political spin. Yet I suggest that most folks want our government to control spending and not get our nation further in debt.

It is neither a Republican or Democratic value.. it is one that we all understand.. and most of us need to embrace.

It must be Sunday.. I think that I started to preach :)

Blessings, Bob

brian said...

Yeah, Bob. There are different aspect of being liberal and conservative. I like the term progressive rather than liberal. I'm pretty consistently progressive. I'm not so sure about liberal. I'm all for moving forward. I'm not real big on tradition (even though I don't abandon it just for the sake of change). I don't like to hear "because we've always done it this way". I am in favor of helping out the least and providing a safety net. I am not in favor of legislating morality. That's what I mean by liberal.

If liberal means spending beyond your means and paying your bills late, I'm not a liberal at all.

Peace,
Brian

Someday said...

Liberal has definitely changed over the years. Liberals used to stand for individual liberty and limited government. Progressives have essentially stolen the label, claiming that social liberals are liberals. What they are is an importation from Europe, something known there as the New Liberal movement. New Liberals believed that the conditions of European poor could be alleviated only through collective action coordinated by a strong welfare-oriented interventionist state.
Europe has never had our Constitution, or anything resembling it. Importing answers to their problems to solve our problems has led to the twisting of our Constitution. It has also led to politically dividing people along the lines of race, color, religion, and creed. Instead of taking up the cause of the individual, New liberals take up the causes of groups. They are more than happy to restrict the freedom of one group in order to establish special rights to another group.
In this day and age in America, it is more important than ever to stop dividing people into classes European style, and get back to respecting the individual rights of all men, equally protected under the same Constitution.
The election of Barack Obama is the perfect example of how far we have come as a nation, where we can elect a man from humble beginnings who has found a way to rise above the condition of his birth and has now become the leader of the free world.

By the way, it was the Republican Party that pushed for the 15th amendment that gave Blacks the right to vote in 1870. You don't owe the Democratic party anything. It was Kennedy who voted against the civil rights act of 1957, and it was the Republicans that wrote the civil rights acts of the sixties. They were "legislating morality". It was the democrats, led by none other than Governor Wallace who fought it tooth and nail. The party of the KKK was the Democratic party. Democratic Senators attempted to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through a filibuster that lasted for 75 hours, not the Republicans. They were mostly united in favor of the Act.
Conservatives seem to respect the rights of individuals more than the democratic party. That is why they do not take up the cause of minority groups AS a GROUP. As individuals, they try to be color blind, unlike those who prefer to divide.......and conquer.
Don't get me wrong, to a lesser extent, the Republican party is guilty too. The pandering to the Christian right for example. But overall, true conservatives are all about individual liberty. It is the freedom of every individual that led them to give blacks the right to vote, and to make sure that every civil rights act overcame the actions of the Democrats to stop them. It was the Republicans that fought the Jim Crow Laws that most Democrats were fighting to keep in place.
Now the Democratic party is the party that keeps everyone divided. Every special interest group finds a home there, dividing us into little platoons in order to battle each other. Today it is fashionable to attack the rich and blame them for everything. By exercising their right to become rich, however legally and morally they achieved this, the very fact that they are rich is causing the oppression of everyone that is not rich. Meanwhile our "poor" have more than the "middle class" has anywhere else in the world. Our "middle class" is larger and far more wealthy than most people that are considered "rich" in every other nation. Now we are trading liberty and freedom for fairness. That will be the nail that seals the lid on our great nation. Socialism has never produced an economy like we have created in this nation.

Never.

brian said...

Thanks for that perspective, Someday. It's always interesting hearing what you have to say on a subject.

I'm not going to debate the reasons why Black vote Democratic with you. But, as a group, we do. I've never been thrilled with the Republican Party. And, as of late, they have made me feel particularly unwelcome. Their convention looked nothing like a "big tent" party and the rhetoric coming the McCain campaign and the people attending their rallies was downright scary.

The Republican Party (as it has evolved over the last couple of decades) is the party that is perceived by minorities (and to some extent by women) as divisive. It has been hijacked by ideological radicals who want to legislate morality (ban gay marriage and stop a woman from having a choice in abortion) while talking about big government. They've given tax breaks to the rich while talking about "compassionate conservatism". Thanks to Karl Rove, they are playing to a shrinking "base" and making anyone outside of that base feel unwelcome.

BTW, my "liberalism" or Progressiveness or whatever you want to call it is not based on a European model of anything. It's based on doing what I believe is the best thing in the interest of all. The obsession with the right of the individual is neither Biblical or the ONLY ideal our country was founded on. There has always been a concern for the common good in the United States of America and it a distortion of history to claim that America is only about allowing the individual freedom. We have always believed in "sharing the wealth" and to taking care of the poor. There have always been limits on capitalism as well as protections when one person's "freedom" impinges on another.

Someday said...

can you give specific examples of the founding fathers telling us that GOVERNMENT must exercise police power to redistribute wealth from one group to another?

We as individuals have always ensured that our poor did not starve, excepting the southern aristocrats that promoted slavery, and later Jim Crow?

Please recall, the present income tax is a product of early 20th century progressives like Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, and F.D. Roosevelt. They had to ammend the Constitution in order to establish the income tax at all, because the Supreme Court struck down the income tax as unconstitutional in 1894. It was the addition of the 16th amendment that made labor taxable. They taxed at a rate of 2% anyone that made over $4,000.00. 2%!!!!! The truth was, Washingtonians felt it would punish East Coasters, while not affecting the west at all. This was a flat tax on the rich. What we have now doesn't even closely resemble the tax that was proposed when the 16th amendment was passed. Not even close. Now we propose taking from group A to give to group B.
There were some small limits on capitalism, but this was only directed towards natural monopolies, not people that were rich just because they were rich. That's a 20th century thing that was designed to get us out of a depression, but it failed and deepened the depression. World War II brought us out because we were the only industrialized nation that had any factories left to produce what the world needed. We don't have that luxury now, we can't afford to follow the same policies that made a recession deepen into a dark depression.

brian said...

Someday,

I could look up some examples. Obama cited them in his book. But, I don't think it would really make a difference, do you?

My point is not so much about what people whine about when they talk about "wealth redistribution". I'm not talking about taking from the rich and giving to the poor until everybody is middle class. I'm talking about providing a safety net. I'm talking about giving everyone a chance at a decent life. I'm talking about not allowing children to languish in poverty generation after generation. If the private sector can handle that, more power to them. I'd LOVE to see the government out of that business. But, until the private sector does, the government must, IMO.

If every Conservative in America would give 10% of their income to charities targeting the poor to help them with healthcare, food, housing, job programs, etc., I bet we could eliminate a HUGE chunk of the income tax.

Someday said...

Brian,
I grew up in the inner city. I know what went on there when I was growing up. It was Government policy that was the root cause of children languishing in poverty generation after generation.
Let me use welfare as an example. It sounded good, give folks a hand up and a place to live and they will be better positioned to make a success out of themselves. There was a massive safety net put in place to catch everyone that fell.
Here is what I saw happen around me though. People became dependent on that safety net. Women were encouraged to remain single to raise children because as soon as a social worker heard that there was a man living with her, her benefits were reduced based on the fact the man was present, even if he too was on welfare. If the man had an income, or if the mother went to work, that income caused benefits to go down, and ultimately stopped any medical benefits.
These policies had a net effect that women were forced to remain single, and knowing that medical benefits would go away was reason enough for many women to remain a dependent on the Government by choice. It was economically safer to remain dependent.

Look at the inner city today! We have a whole generation of people that have grew up in this environment. Is it any wonder that many of my relatives choose to be single parents after growing up in an environment that punished mothers that chose to keep the family together? Is it any wonder young men choose not to stick around and be a father after growing up seeing their mothers make sure that social workers did not find their children's father living with her?
The private sector did not break the inner city, the government did. Government policies unintentionally destroyed the poor family and created a generation that is less likely to succeed according to middle class standards.
This is what government interference does. It breaks things. There was no starvation in the inner cities when the great Society plans were implemented. Poor families stuck together because all they had was each other. Now all many poor people have is the government. It is a self fulfilling prophecy. And who do the democrats try to blame? The Republicans

Should we force everyone to pay 10% tithe now?
Let's look at an executive on Wall Street who makes $250,000. More than likely they live in New York City.
Mayor Bloomberg is proposing that they raise city taxes to 15%. President-Elect Obama has suggested we raise taxes on this bracket to 39%. Congress actually are the ones that raise or lower taxes and we know that the leadership has already stated they would want to raise it even higher. I am going to say they compromise at 40%. It will be higher, I guarantee it, but I will use that number.
We have 40% taken by the feds, Let's say New York State will want 7% (it's actually 7.4%). New York City wants 15.
We are looking at total that government wants is 72% of that income. Do the math. How much is that executive bringing home?
$70,000. So are you talking tithing 10% off net income as many of us pay? Take another $25,000.00 off and you are left with a whopping take home pay of $45,000.00.
Will you stop tithing once you get to that tax bracket Brian? That's another effect of Government intervention. Less money in the market for people to be more charitable with.

brian said...

Thanks for the analysis, Someday. I still don't think leaving people to starve or depend on the chance that the private sector might help is the answer.

I do agree that the welfare system has been a nightmare and that it's better to teach a man to fish than to keep handing him fish. I agree that there has been disincentive to work, in some cases. But, I think the answer is to reform the welfare system, not abandon it.

Peace,
Brian

Kansas Bob said...

I agree that the answer is to reform the welfare system.. and the culture that surrounds it.

Gnostic Girl said...

I am an Australian who is engaged to an American, and am planning to move to the US next year.

On a visit to Australia a couple of years ago, my FiancĂ© and I were in a park when a bunch of young school children walked by and one of them stopped, pointed at him and said “Hey look everybody, there's an American!” My FiancĂ© was stunned, it was the first time he could remember someone referring to him as 'an American' and not an 'African-American' or 'Black', and said with that raw honesty that young children express. That was something he loved about Australia, he was just 'American' here.

I was Stateside earlier this year meeting my future in-laws in Atlanta, and I was shocked at the racism we experienced towards us as a mixed couple; the dirty looks and stares made me feel SO uncomfortable, only it was mostly from Black people. His Mum took me wedding dress shopping one day, and a Black woman in a little boutique store near to where they live actually refused to serve us! I have never experienced racism like that in Australia, things are so different here. To be honest it really gave me second thoughts about raising my future (mixed) children in an environment where they would be subject to that kind of thing, not only from the white community, but from the black as well.

For me, Obama's victory is a tremendous relief and has given me hope!

In response to “Somedays” comments...

The other thing that deeply saddened me about the US was your class system and how your country is essentially set up as such that it perpetuates a large lower class that is terribly difficult to get out of, and the general capitalistic attitude of 'every man for himself'. From the observations of a foreigner, I hate to say it but from where I stand your system sucks! (no offense intended).

Some stark differences between our countries:

1. We have a strong, centralized government, high (but reasonable) taxes, strong unions and a generous welfare system. The result of which has produced a vastly different socio-economic landscape to that of the US. The gap between rich and poor is much narrower here, with the vast majority of the population falling into the category of middle-class, and a relatively small upper and lower class.

2. It is compulsory to vote. Once you hit 18 years of age, voting is mandatory for all Australian citizens and failure to do so results in a substantial fine. This ensures that everyone's voice is heard, regardless of socio-economic background, and I would suggest is largely the reason for the structure as described above. I dare say if this was the case in the US, there would be vastly different policies (and attitudes) in place.

3. We have an excellent public transport system here, so much so that you can get practically anywhere without a car, and this is not limited to city but is inclusive of outer suburbs. The public transport is widely used, and it is not restricted to the lower-class – it is the choice many individuals use to commute to work every day. In contrast the US is very car dependent – if you want to get to work in many cases you need a car to get there. Thing is, you need money to buy a car, and to get that money you need to work... a vicious cycle.

4. We have a universal health-care system here which is of an excellent standard. If you are an Australian Citizen you are entitled to free health-care, you are not discriminated against if you can't afford private health cover. Our country boasts long life expectancies and a low infant mortality rate.

5. You don't need to pay up-front to attend university (or college as you would say). Instead you attend first, then pay later once you have gained employment and earning a salary – essentially you pay a higher tax to pay it off. This means education is available to everyone, regardless of socio-economic status.

We have a great system here, and it works. It works really well. The American social structure is another major concern for me as a prospective immigrant, and again I hope beyond hope that Obama can bring with him some positive change to this end.

brian said...

Gnostic Girl,

Thanks for your comments. Two quick responses.

1.) Racism here is complex and fluid. We've come a long way in a relatively short time. There are many biracial couples in my family, so I have a lot of second hand experience with it. For the most part there's no problem. My brother married a white girl. At first his father-in-law would not even visit. They didn't think he'd even show up at the wedding. Long story short, he finally came around (after the grandkids were born). You will probably get more flack from black women than anyone else. The main reason is a shortage of decent black men. The pool is small and many black women resent white women for poaching in their territory. Then, there are the years of anything white/European being superior. So, there is an air of a white woman being a "trophy" wife that a lot of black people still deal with. But, as I said, all that is getting better.

The mandatory voting thing in Australia really bothered me when I first heard about it. I thought do we really want to force the people who pay no attention to the process to vote. But, you made a point that changed my mind. You probably have the type of government you do (a government which pays attention to all its citizens) because they know that everyone will vote. Here, politicians can pretty much ignore huge sections of the population because they don't really vote anyway. This recent election did make them pay attention though and hopefully we've turned the corner on that. Our Republican Party, which is built on a small, almost racially pure, religiously oriented "base" is not in a panic because they have seen the results of their "base" shrinking and the others are all pretty much migrating to the Democratic Party.

Thanks again for your comments.

Peace,
Brian