I tuned into the inaugural events between my music and government classes (of all things – a test in government prevented me from seeing much of Obama’s speech!), and i’d have to give the following observations:
1- i was surprised at how much of Obama’s fierceness and ignorance had faded (and how nice he was being to his sworn enemies). I guess having access to all that presidential stuff the public doesn’t ever get to see opened his eyes and shut his mouth a little. good.
2- i thought the poet (Elizabeth Alexander) was annoying. i think … part of my annoyance came from the lack of true originality … from how she paused to give great meaning to words with no great meaning, and especially how she stylistically plagarised (recent) past literary movements/poets in her pastiche. it’s always been difficult for me to see the news as art … or teenage collages … and her poem was both hollow and aimless. i guess she got the spot either out of tradition or out of that same stuff most of the rest of the guests had … “race”.
3- Rev. Joseph Lowery really pissed me off! What a sick and senile bigot! I listened to the entire prayer, and remember thinking in the beginning, “wow … i’d expected a lot more fire and irreverence from a man of his vocation”, and as it dawdled on, i began feeling the similarity between our beliefs, and …. SCREECH! he suddenly lost the Spirit and began showing off, doing his clever little ditty:
“We ask you to help us work for that day
when black will not be asked to give back,
when brown can stick around,
when yellow will be mellow,
when the red man can get ahead, man,
and when white will embrace what is right.”
I probably could have handled the ‘black will not be asked to give back’ (i thought he said ‘get in back’), because that’s the kind of self-pitied racial focus we (of my generation*) just kind of look past & forgive. The ‘when brown can stick around’ is kind of the same thing, and a little funny.
When he said “When yellow will be mellow”, i began to wonder if he was stretching a little too far to be funny, or if he was doing a slur against Asian folks. With the remark about the ‘red man’, i figured he’d just forgotten he was praying to God, and started trying to do stand up …
but the remark about whites was NOT funny, and no amount of complex rhetoric and pretended open mindedness could fool anyone into believing that part was meant to be funny.
I bought one of Obama’s books that evening at a Wal*Mart. “Dreams of My Father”, at least as far as i’ve read it now, says something related to race on EVERY page. I can understand a man of “mixed ancestry” discussing race in a book about his heritage … it takes no stretch of the mind to assume the role of race would have been integral to creating who he was (at least back in those days*), but we have to question – sooner, rather than later, how much focus on race is too much?
I began to look back at some of the accusations i’d ignored a year ago … where his supporters were being accused of “voting black” and not voting on the basis of issues and leadership potential. It began to occur to me that, while he is a good leader who is black, he’s not the best leader who is black, and he is not the best leader. Was his nomination a dangerous form of affirmative action*?
FORTUNATELY i saw this YouTube clip, which shows Obama giggling at the “clever” color-aware preacher’s words … and then i saw a tiny something that pauses my opinion. I see the newly installed president cringe ever so lightly when the bigoted bigmouth belches his slur against those in America who are white. I say “pause” because Obama has yet to apologize on behalf of the old man, and the old man hasn’t been asked to apologize. If nothing is done to retract that filthy accusation, then the moment only serves as a stronger underscore that our 44th leader is also blinded and distracted by racial differences, and his rise to power will not mend the growing division between the races, but will instead fuel the fire. (I make these comments having seen the video of the armed blacks outside the polling places, and after having heard the rumors of ‘race wars’ against whites if he wasn’t elected).
* keep in mind, i’m of a younger generation. I grew up in an area where there was one black family, a lot of whites and hispanics, and a few asians. i lived for awhile in an area where there were a lot of european races, and then an area where there were a lot of black and asian races. In my upbringing, we were never taught to view race as an ‘issue’ … while we probably inherently assumed the bandanna’d hispanic farm workers spoke spanish, we in no way determined one race was more or less better than another. When i lived in the major metro area where there were a lot of blacks (two of my longest jobs were at places of employment where easily 75% were black), i finally started to hear about race in real-time (as opposed to documentaries of 1960’s south, etc) … and those race issues were ALWAYS brought up by the people who felt they were victims (if memory serves me, i think the older blacks never brought it up, either … it was always the younger ones). Their context was never ‘we have to sit on the back of the bus’ or ‘why aren’t there any black politicians/managers’ (because there were) – their complaints were about “the president” or “rich guys” (who, honestly, in that area were usually from India or Asia), or loosely quoted lyrics and quips from popular culture.
When i thought of MLK jr, i always thought of a really cool, God-inspired guy who knew the importance of keeping peace in race relations. I looked up to him. I thought about him on the holiday named after him.
Now, however, i realise his work, his voice and his image have been appropriated by ‘blacks’, and it almost feels like they took someone who belonged to everybody & pulled him inside so we couldn’t have access to him. I can’t stand up and give the “I have a dream” speech without getting some odd looks, because i’m not black.
As a straight white male, a lot of these ‘historic’ and ‘fair’ programs feel like persecution. whether ‘official’ or not, at university and in the job market it always hurt to see people advance who didn’t work as hard as me (not saying none of them were hard workers). it always feels weird – even now – to have to fill out a little card that says “white / asian / black / native american”, because i know that card is never going to benefit me. It is annoying to have to sit and acknowledge that if i were gay or black or hispanic or something, there are scholarships, schools, churches, clubs, pageants, holidays and festivities that i could go to, receive, participate in … but not being those things, i’m always the one color not included in the rainbow. For me, “Diversity” is an exclusionary phrase. It means ‘everyone but me’. Sometimes it means worse … sometimes it means i’m the villain of society.
Everytime someone (white) brings up the ‘well, there are “Black scholarships’, why can’t we have a white one?”, the argument is made that “well, ALL the other ones are for you!”
and the discussion stops. how can one argue against that? certainly, for thousands of years, everything has been about ‘me’, and now is finally time for ‘you’.
It doesn’t work like that, though. My family never owned slaves. More significantly, i never owned slaves. I never beat a man because he was black. I never prospered more against a black in the same venue (usually the opposite). I never signed an order excluding any race … during my life, under my stewardship, in my accountability, i have never participated in the suffering of anyone because of their race, sexual orientation or gender. When opportunity has come before me, i have lifted those of difference by choice or birth.
So when i hear of ‘racism’, i think of how it’s always assumed those of my cloth and flesh are the perpetrators. I think of the complex crutches and handouts given to those who still can’t forgive someone who is long since dust for something that may or may not have been done to one of their ancestors who is also dust. When i think of racism, i think of the grand party thrown for the 44th President of the United States, and how that party, paid for with my hard-earned dollars, was a party i wasn’t invited to. It was a rally of hate, and THAT is the only thing truly historic about it.