The issue that makes America
- the beautiful to some and Amerikkka - the hated in the eyes of many
others, has finally come to the forefront. Race is America and America
is (and always has been about) Race. While race (and gender) has tried
to be subordinated to the politics of hope and change - even to the extent
of this Presidential campaign was (is) being called, “the age of post-racial
politics,” the issue surfaced last week in the same way race has always
combusted in the public discourse - crudely and coarsely. Former Vice
Presidential Candidate, Geraldine Ferraro, crudely suggested that if Barack
Obama was a white man or a woman, he wouldn’t be where is - that the only
reason that he is where he is was because he is black. The most outrageous
part of the statement was that he is winning because America is “caught
up” in the phenomenon of his blackness. You know she’s crazy as hell,
right? When has America ever gotten caught up in anybody that
Well, they have - if they were entertaining whites. But caught in somebody’s
blackness? That’s a stretch…a big stretch. We understand the codification
here. It’s a natural progression of America’s interjection of race coinciding
with the evolution of Obama’s success. Here’s how race plays in America.
First, blacks are dismissed as not being equal or worthy. Treatment is
cordial. Once blacks prove equal and/or worthy, their credentials are
questioned. Once blacks demonstrate their credentials, they become competitors
- then race becomes an issue as entitlement is invoked. That’s where we
are in this Presidential campaign. Barack was first dismissed as not being
able to win. Then he was framed as a nice guy without experience. Then
he was framed as eloquent but all talk. Now he’s winning and framed as
the black guy who we don’t know and need to before turning over the family
jewels (this Euro-centric nation) to him. The change discourse is off
the front page. Now we’re back to hope, on two different levels - black
people hoping racism doesn’t rear its ugly head, and white people hoping
they can trust him. Race is about to trump hope and change, as we get
down to the reality that Obama has a chance to win. Framing Barack as
“too black” to trust is the underlying theme here.
Blackness has been “the joker,” the ultimate fear card played in that
race deck called America. America never embraces Blacks for who they are.
If anything, you had to be anti-black (Clarence Thomas, Ward Connerly)
or race neutral (Bill Cosby, O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey)
in your politics to be embraced by white America. The moment you became
implicated in criminality (Simpson, Jackson) or race conscious in your
politics (Cosby, Winfrey), the media treated you like any other Black,
with high bias and negativity. Obama has avoided the issue of race like
the plaque because it’s a “no-win” situation for him. If he doesn’t acknowledge
it, or doesn’t speak to the issues of race - he’s not black enough. If
he acknowledges race and speaks to issues of race (it’s been more than
a year since his “Quite Riot” urban revitalization speech), he’s too black.
And lately, he can’t even have friends or associations that are “too black”
(more on this in a minute). Ferraro was unabashedly crude in her post
comment analysis and unapologetic, even going as far as to say that the
media was only bringing her statement to light because she was white (smirk)
and they (and the Obama campaign) should apologize to her. That’s how
race plays in America. There is nothing “post racial” about the race discourse
last week - it’s more of the same.
The coarseness of race and racism in America is such that when it is
discussed, it’s going to sound exactly as it is. Whether in delicate language
or “fire and brimstone” oratory, the reality of racism, historical and
contemporary, is going to be a coarse conversation. And there’s never
an appropriate time to bring up race in America. If you asked America
to set a time to talk about race, that response (like inquiries on the
abolition of slavery and the end of segregation) would be, not now - wait
a little longer. Waiting means months, years, decades and centuries. Race
discourse, whether it was Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois,
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan or Jeremiah Wright
had to bust into the public discussion like an atomic bomb, blowing a
hole in the side of America’s racial pretense of equality and fairness,
largely because there is a viciousness to the American race politic that
has rarely subsided. It is a vicious politic that is always just beneath
the surface, that can rise at any time, by any person (not just whites).
Most of the disparities in this egalitarian society, whether income or
wealth, work or education, health or leisure, are race related. That’s
a fact that has been the case for 200 years and even in this so-called
era of “racial reconciliation” in America, most of these disparities have been maintained
and in some instances, increased. Black America, having been mostly on
the receiving end of American racism, knows it like no other. To suggest
that others know to the same degree is to be more than naïve. It’s like
saying the bearer of the whip knows the same pain as the catcher of the
lash. The inflictor and the inflicted never have the same vantage point.
So when a Jeremiah Wright says that Hillary Clinton doesn’t really know
what’s its like to be black in America - “Hillary ain’t never be called,
‘A Ni**a’,” as coarse as it sounds, that is the reality of race in America.
It’s a truth America knows.
The problem is that America never wants to face up to this particular
truth. What Jeremiah Wright and most true spiritual leaders know and understand
is that there’s America’s truth, and there’s God’s truth. Most real “Men
of God” (and there are not as many as profess to be - black or white)
care little about covering up America’s racial history. That was the major
rift between King and white theologians that caused him to write his “Letter
from a Birmingham Jail.” Another problem here is that America is so busy
dismissing black America, that it doesn’t really know black America. Because
if they knew black America,
they’d know who Jeremiah Wright is, a master theologian who has a national
following and is considered one of the premier teachers of other preachers.
He is not some “fringe cleric” or “rouge religious leader”,
just a few of the names the white pundits are calling him. He knows the
Bible (and Qur’an), understands prophesy and
he knows history in the context of America’s
relationship with oppressed people. America may not like what he says,
particularly when he says it as coarse as, “Not God bless but God damn
America,” but few can refute it or call him a liar. Those who see Barack
as the Democratic Nominee want to hang his spiritual leader’s words around
his neck, as if it’s the first time they’ve heard “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” professed
in the aftermath of a national tragedy. Malcolm X said it 45 years ago.
America now celebrates Malcolm without celebrating his teacher, the Most
Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who rejected Malcolm’s comments on the assassination
of JFK in a period of national mourning and a moment of racial reconciliation.
Some in America
now want to celebrate Barack Obama without celebrating his teacher - the
very one who gave him the theme of his campaign - the Audacity of Hope.
Obama had the audacity to challenge the political status quo because he
had a teacher that doesn’t think like a Negro - but in a true African
centered consciousness that all things are possible when you operate from
a spiritual base. God’s truth doesn’t pick situations to be true and truth
tellers don’t pick situations to pander.
Change is the most radical of endeavors. Once people realized that change
is at their front door, they now want to put out the “race call,” as if
they don’t know already. It’s an appeal to that small percentage, enough
to change the outcome of an election, to think twice before they do it.
With that, race is poised to trump change, in hopes that things don’t
change - but remain the same.
BlackCommentator.com Columnist Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad is a national
columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum
and author of the new book, Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website
here to contact Dr. Samad.