2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
Speaking Truth to Power!

Has Race Finally Trumped Hope AND Change

 

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Has Race Finally Trumped Hope AND Change In The Democratic Presidential Primaries?
Between the Lines
By Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, PhD
B
lackCommentator.com Columnist

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 was black?

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 is AnthonySamad.com. Click here to contact Dr. Samad.

 

 
 
 

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