A Cool Breeze, Black Boogey Men and Dealing with Demonization and Denigration

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on August 18, 2008 0 Comments

(Part II in a 5 part series from the Future Broadcast Company’s The Black Right with Keith Bryant, http://www.theblackright.com)

“I’m asking you to Believe. No just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington… I am asking you to believe in yours.”

                                                                                Senator Barack Obama 

Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. “                                                                  St. Augustine

What struck me of the civility of the Civil Forum, is even though the black man tar and feathering machine had been applied to Senator Obama, he walked onto the stage tanned, relaxed and loving from his one week vacation in his birth place of Hawaii. The brother had a whole lot of that Aloha spirit in his body. I know this because the majority of brothers would not have acted cool to such an assault on their emotional, spiritual and physical being (‘black’ is a physical characteristic). They would have flown off the handle. They would have gotten “heated”. They would have lost their minds. They would have sacrificed everything to defend a momentary affront. I believe, in part, this is why a minority population of 13% consists of 65% of the prison population. We allow the systemic racism to get to us.

This is why I believe, in part, African Americans cheered so loudly for OJ Simpson during the infamous trial: because OJ Simpson and Johnnie Cochran, two brothers, carefully, rationally, tactically took apart a system that was designed to tear them down and crafted a victory in clear view for the whole world to see. The verdict validated our ‘equality’ under the law, if we ensure our fair share of education, economic resources and hubris. The OJ Simpson Trail was a symbolic talisman for African Americans. There are no analogies between OJ Simpson and Barack Obama other than they are being treated by the same system, painted by the same tar and feather brush- which says more about the ‘system’ and those who perpetuate it than it does Senator Obama.

I recall the myriad times my father gave me the lesson, amongst the infinite he bore into my head with a call/response rhetorical exercise, of, “Patrick, just be cool.  The hotter you feel, just count real slow to heaven, until you are cool.”  I haven’t completely mastered that lesson yet, although I am a far ways from the peevish, smart alec adolescent who always had the answer (well, I’m not at adolescent at least).   I’m working on it as I have always had a hard time working through the ravages that are racism and discrimination.  Its like a spiritual or emotional alergic reaction- the whole thing just seems stupid- life defining biases upon the arbitrary designation of skin melenon.  

To be sure, when Senator Obama becomes President Obama, the mechanism of racism will continue more violently than during the historic Democratic Primaries or General Election Campaign because it, this Ideology of Racism, is fighting for its life.

Racism is central to the body American. As an ideology just as central as Democracy or Capitalism; just as centric as oxygen is to the human body. It is the condition of shame that invites all sorts of rage, depression and negative emotion when it is brought to the forefront. The Discrimination that is the Racism that is the Segregation that is the Slavery that born these United States is like a cancer, every present, switching benign, then malignant but ever present and diagnosed, unto analysis paralysis. It is the ailment that makes us sick. Even treating it, as with radiation and chemotherapy, makes us sick. Even treating racism with dialogue and legislation deteriorates into a fracas of accusations, bitter emotions and complete lack of resolution. Yet we refuse to cure ourselves.

Don’t trick yourself: race and the opportunity at racial reconciliation is a huge part of this campaign for Presidency of the United States of America in the 21st Century. We are trying to move beyond WEB Dubious prescient statement of, “for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line”. We are trying to land smoothly into the plane of time that is the 21st century. Politics as usual is the politics of race, the politics of division. The politics of, “I succeed if you do not.” The politics of hatred, bogeymen and demonization is nothing new to the historical or contemporary political process. We must all brave and travel the time warp as America comes into its own.

The historical forces that have aligned to create this cosmic moment in American history should not be taken lightly nor dismissed. A door to America’s future has been cracked open and it is the responsibility of all American citizens- black, white, young, old, Latin, The Greatest Generation, Asian, Generation Y, The Baby boomers – to seize this moment and break down that door. Barack has already stated, “Participate. The Democracy you get is the one you create”. He has captured the imaginations of Americans from Iowa to South Carolina who dare to dream beyond a reality of complacency, civil rights abuses committed in the name of patriot act, strategic blunders that cost us our economic well being, apathy derived in no small part from a Democratically elected Congress that will still not affect the will of the people, he has stirred greater possibility in all of our minds with the audacity of hope.

In some regards, I suppose Senator Obama did not have any choice but cool calm collection. Anger, Hate or Rage would have been an affirmation of the forces that seek to destroy the Audacity of Hope. One of Senator Obama’s greatest legacies will not only be this historic odyssey he is taking for all Americans, leading as a pied piper from the entrapments of a past mired in racial violence and dysfunction, but the manner in which he is making this journey. At the onset of his campaign Senator Obama promised that he would be a president for all Americans. In fact, this cool, calm collected manner is responsible for his success thus far. By no arbitrary circumstance or flippant remark, he also promised that he would not deal with race or racism as an excuse for his failure. He has absolutely stayed true to his word, even at his own tactical short term detriment.

Senator Obama is a historic figure that transcends race not because he is not black, not because is not white, but because he is both.  He is uniquely African American a cosmopolital world class mix of East African and Kansan versus the common West African roots this side of the Atlantic.  Undoubtedly, Senator Obama is a black man (its in his swagger, his talk, his presense) but he is a black man who grew up with familial support and love of his white Kansan mother, grandmother and grandfather. As exotic as Senator Obama is with his geographic childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia, he is as plane as Apple Pie, as American as the bomber assembly line his grandmother worked while his grandfather was away in World War II. In his 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, he writes that his mother “could give voice to the virtues of her midwestern past and offer them up in distilled form.” Ironically, the love that made Barack Obama traces its roots to Mareen Duvall, a major land owner in Anne Arundel County in the 1600s who owned 18 slaves. The love that has created this populist figure of American politics came from the same heartland that gave inspiration to Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz.  Heck, he’s a distant cousin of Brad Pitt!

The divine providence of Senator Obama upon the Springfield, Illinois steps was not lost upon him as he gave his announcement to run for the Presidency from the Old State Capital Building February 10th, 2007. Abraham Lincoln, likewise, following a brief two-years in the U.S. House of Representatives, began his political career and subsequent successful quest for the Presidency in much the same manner. In our national life, a powerful singular all encompassing narrative could be sewn from Slavery to Civil Way to Civil Rights to our current election. In Barack Obama we have a historic figure who- towering, physically lean and as ideological as he is pragmatic- the likes of which has not been seen in over a century. It is as if Old Abe reincarnated himself to the present day in the form of a mulatto to finish the work he had begun a century ago and we have been existing in a time warp. And yes, these cultural wars (seemingly between Republican and Democrat) are a continuum of the Civil War.

In the past week, I attended a service by Rev. Mark E. Whitlock, pastor of COR AME Church in which he summoned those powers of forgiveness for his parishioners. Pastor Mark spoke compellingly of the need for all of us to forgive and handed out yellow wristbands inscribed with “I forgive you- COR Church” as a talisman. No doubt, Senator Obama has used the powerful ethos and spiritual gifts, exemplifying the Judeo-Christian ethic that characterized our nation in some of its finer moments, of not only grace but forgiveness in tactical engagement of the Karl Rove/ John McCain Campaign machine, particularly as he embraced the man who no less than days before had sought to destroy his character with vim and vigor.

One of the greatest assets Senator Obama has employed in his quest for the Presidency has been a cool breeze pedigree. Will we, the American people, a Christian nation, take this particular leap of faith with him? Will we move beyond the politics of cynicism, apathy, hate, doubt, depression and denigration? Will we lose our nerve when these impulses are primed.

next in a 5 part series
Appreciating the Man, John McCain and Michelle, Our Queen

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