Sunday, February 15, 2009

Black is the New.....Black?

In the months during the general election and period leading up to the Inauguration, I've watched countless news stories and special interest pieces where folks, mainly pundits and talk-show hosts discuss and theorize about what it means to be black in America in this "post racial or post-racist" Obama era. The stories, have been....well, compelling but the conclusions have largely left me shaking or scratching my head.

They ask questions like (no joke, I've heard these new things):

"Will black kids learn better?," "Will black people feel the urge and find the strength to rise above the poverty line" "Will black on black crime come to an immediate halt? I would say no to most of these things. Not because I am hopelessly pessimistic, but because I am a cynical optimist.

While I hate to answer a question with a question, I ask this in response "Will the issues that plague black folks be treated as issues/ flaws in the system rather than the self-induced plight of a people who, until recently, lacked representation by a man seemingly at the top of his game?"

"Will black people be given the opportunities that they have been so long denied, the same opportunities granted to a certain current President of ours?"

***Point of clarification: I do believe that flawed decision making skills and poor personal choices stand alone, no matter what race you are.

Those are the questions that we should be asking ourselves. Truly. It's mentally and socially heavy lifting and it doesn't make for heart-warming stories but our moral defense of these issues should not weaken for any reason. Not even a black President.

For as long as I can remember, the default, almost comical response of Black people feeling the pressure of society was to "Blame it on the white man." Because he was and is, for all intense purposes the high and mighty authority. But now, as we see, both the white and black man have some of the same issues....we are BROKE and in many cases, hopeless. Plus, THE MAN (the president) is now OUR MAN (Barack Obama), so what now? I don't see any of our issues disappearing quite yet, not as quickly as people expected them too...and not, in my opinion until we address the issues systematically. Nov 4th changed the game in a huge doubt. But the system still rears it's ugly head. I think, and this is a bit daring, that moral issue like social and racial oppression are SOCIAL issues that can only be solved by SOCIETY. There's no real democracy about it. And no, I'm not a social anarchist. I just think that the government cannot solve the problems that you have with your neighbor across the Mason-Dixon line, except to legislate that you cannot kill him or deny him the right to vote. Big deal. You can't legislate love. The steps that we take to heal a nation, as I've learned, are bold and they don't require any bureaucracy or even a black President.

I could be totally wrong, but think that we as a race (human and African American) are in a unique place to evaluate where we are going. So I guess we should not be asking ourselves how far WE have come, but rather how far forward we have moved on the scale of issues that affect us most and the system that they all revolve around. It's a shame (or a blessing, you decide) that being black is sometimes more about a platform of issues than a celebration of heritage.

I grew up in an age, post Black Panther, pre-Black President, where black folks were getting a little slice of the pie (more like crumbs) and we gained some idea of upward mobility. Get a house, lease a car, get a desk job....etc. Still, there were glaring injustices that gave rise to folks like the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who were spokespersons for many of these issues. We've all seen the news clips where the family and supporters of a victim of police brutality are shown and Jesse and Al are giving the same speech that they gave when this last happened. "The government is unfair....we demand respect, etc." But truly, what will happen to the forward movement when we aren't making stump speeches about how much the Bush administration hates us?? Hmmm.

On another note, where are we are on the cultural front? I mean, the Obama campaign did something to invigorate the spirits of young men and women everywhere, and if only for a moment, politics became intertwined into popular culture. Thank goodness, because considering that are being passed the societal torch, I was getting a little worried. Is that the place for it though? I think so, but decide for yourself. As long as we don't pair justice with popularity, I think it will be ok. Rest assured though, conservative and old folks alike, kids wearing baggy pants named Dequan won't be defiling your daughters (at least not in large numbers) and running your country just yet. We've still got some work to do, because as soon as we get comfortable with the progress that we have made, the movement has found another cause, another corner of the earth to penetrate and we are left behind reveling in our hay-day. So, in honor of this Valentine's Day weekend, I'll have to say that my heart is taken. Captured this notion, this opportunity to change. I love the fact that I have been called to be apart of it, and that it has become apart of me.

Black is the new black, eh? So FINALLY, in 2009, it's ok for me to be black girl from the North Atlanta suburbs with righteous indignence in her soul and an afro pic in her purse, speaking her mind in complete sentences with subject-verb agreement?? Well.....maybe. I won't push my luck. On the other hand, it's only mid-February. I've got a least a few more days.


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