"The Right To Be A Man ... To Be A Human Being ..."
I went to an urban high school in the mid 1980's that was about 60% Black at the time.
I would never claim to be "down" to 100% understanding what it means to be Black in America, but there was one incident that always stuck with me.
There was a particularly articulate brother in my "Public Affairs" class my Senior year who got into a MONUMENTAL argument with the teacher one day.
This teacher was saying something along the lines, "I can certainly imagine circumstances where I might end up on welfare - possibly for the rest of my life, but I would spend ever single day telling my children, 'It's not supposed to be this way.'"
This brother in the class said something to the effect, "How in the WORLD do you expect me to have a positive attitude when I have to get up every morning, look in the mirror, and be faced with the fact that my ancestors were slaves?"
There were various points that went back and forth between this brother and the teacher. Eventually this brother got so upset he left the classroom.
Like I said - I would never claim to be "down", but one thing I did pick up was that due to four centuries or more of "bad blood", there were African-Americans who entertained the notion on a way too frequent basis that they might be somehow less than human or at least hopelessly a notch below "the white folks".
I once knew another brother who told me he'd never pledge allegiance to the United States because of the 3/5 clause. Again I see this theme that I presume goes something like this, "the document that created the United States made me 3/5 of a person".
Then of course there is the classic Malcolm X quote, "We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary."
There was an evening I spent listening to a lecture by the Rev. Fred Price. It took him over three hours to explain that his own mentor had hopelessly offended him when he said he didn't believe in interracial dating. Fred Price said, "Mrs. Price and I have been married for over 50 years. I'm not looking for a date. But if you're saying you wouldn't want to see my son dating your daughter you're saying you're better than me and that I DO have a problem with."
I had African-American neighbors growing up and I remember the first time I visited them with my then Black girlfriend. I was quite surprised by the reaction. With some Whites, if a Black neighbor young man brought home a White girlfriend there would be an attempted murder before the end of the evening. My neighbors were delighted. I couldn't figure out why. Perhaps it was the opposite of what Fred Price was trying to say - if the neighbor, who looks very different from you, brings home a date who DOES look like you, maybe that somehow communicates that the neighbor thinks you're okay.
So what happened last night.
I have to admit I was somewhat overcome with emotion when 11pm hit and they called the West Coast, and the election, for Obama.
I found myself struggling to even form the thoughts of what had just happened. The foreign press keeps tossing around the simple, "First Black President", but it seems something much bigger happened.
In fact I was reminded of a conversation I once had with Buzz Aldrin when he explained to me that he gave himself communion just after he touched down on the moon because he felt something appropriate needed to be done to mark the occasion but he never figured out exactly what that would be so he borrowed something from his Presbyterian background.
What exactly DO you do to commemorate the fact that several tens of millions of White people just FINALLY granted the humanity back to the entire Black race?
And what exactly do you to do commemorate the fact that these snotty White shits FINALLY gave a tiny flash of inspiration that they ARE a race worth saving?
But, perhaps I'm getting overly emotional as I'm prone to do.
Probably the MOST appropriate analogy is what happened after President Franklin Roosevelt died in office of a massive stroke.
The story goes that Harry Truman comes up to Eleanor Roosevelt and says, "Is there anything we can do for you?" Eleanor Roosevelt says, "Is there anything we can do for YOU? YOU'RE the one in trouble NOW."
Yes ... is there anything we can do for you, President-elect Obama? You most certainly are the one in trouble now ...
Labels: Barack Obama