Wednesday, June 4, 2008

History or His story?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 will no doubt go down in the record books as "historic." And for many Blacks especially, it means the world. I am not one of them. It's not that it doesn't matter - because it does. I simply do not believe in the senator from Illinois. I believe his run for the presidency is only about his story, with the history of it all being a mere collateral benefit.

Our insecurity as a people is Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder writ large. It keeps us hoping for, and grabbing onto anyone who looks like us for a sense of security, self and belonging even when that anyone may not have our best interests at heart. I understand it, but it still boggles the mind. The only treatment for such a disorder is to look inward, not outward, for the love and acceptance one seeks. It's difficult, but possible and definitely worth doing if, as a people, we are to survive.

Zora Neale Hurston once said, "All my skinfolk ain't my kinfolk." Sen. Obama has made the veracity of her statement quite apparent to me over this long primary season. His story is not my history (neither is Sen. Clinton's, but we do have that pesky little gender thing, which often if not always breeds misogyny, in common).  Master strategist that I've come to believe he is, there is no doubt in my mind he'd been planning this attempt for some time which, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. But it got bad for me pretty quickly when I realized he was just a politician - no more, no less than Sen. Clinton (with the exception that her fight for universal health care being a long and dedicated one, unlike the senator from Illinois whose not had time to formulate a real passion for anything other than his own self-aggrandizement) - willing to say or do anything to continue writing his OWN story. I've no problem with the writing your own story part, it's the doing anything in order to accomplish that, that makes me want to wipe the green slime off me.

He knew he'd have to get his "skinfolk" behind him and he knew exactly how to do it - CHURCH. Most of us do love church, don't we? So, Barry went to Chicago and Barack - the community organizer, 20-year dedicated member of Trinity United Church of Christ where he found "religion," married his Black wife and baptized his children - was born (and let's not get it twisted, I have no problems with Rev. Wright I can't handle).

Unless there's some deep and grand plot to hoodwink white Americans by pretending to "denounce" his pastor and leave his home church in search of another, less Afrocentric one, Sen. Obama used my people and their insecurity to advance his own personal agenda and that ain't cool - at all. There's no "Balm in Gilead" to be found, not even in the highest office in the land, for the wound this little lost boy is trying to heal. That melanin in his skin, coupled with no positive connection to it whatsoever in his formative years, seems to have left a hole in his soul.

His political expediency regarding Florida particularly sticks in my craw because I live here now. I also went through similar political shenanigans imposed on us by Republicans when I lived here in 2000. Who woulda thunk it? Blacks, having been considered "three-fifths persons" constitutionally, had their value in Florida literally decreased by a "Black" man in back-room dealings with the DNC that halved the delegates votes, discounted the popular vote and handed him the Democratic nomination on a silver platter (Donna Brazile, I love that a sister has risen to such a powerful position in the Democratic party today, but your complicity in this internalized racism is both obvious and pernicious). And adding insult to injury, his Black supporters, so intent on having the first Black president supported it! A bit of the oppressed becoming the oppressor don't you think?

Being a South Carolina girl, born and raised, disenfranchisement of any kind really brings the "Angry Black Woman" out in me. A little S.C. history: In 1895, South Carolina enacted laws with the explicit intent of eliminating the electoral privileges of blacks (with Louisiana, North Carolina, Alabama Virginia, Georgia and Oklahoma hot on its heels). “Pitchfork” Bill Tillman, the Democratic governor of South Carolina during those dark days, reveled in the glory of that kind of disenfranchisement saying on the Senate floor in 1896:
“We have done our level best; we have scratched our heads to find out how we could eliminate the last one of them; we stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it.”
Figuratively, Obama's "strategy" concerning Florida and Michigan was the same thing to me. His "post-racial candidate" strategy is definitely working for some whites however. Either that, or they're just trying to find a justification for supporting him since he is now the nominee. In a recent Salon.com article -- "What role did race play with white Democrats?" -- one of the "round table experts" (what makes these people experts anyway?), Tom Schaller said this:
"Can I just say one thing about Obama and his post-racial identity, which I talk about at all public events that I do. The other thing that is the crazy wild card here, we just talk about him as a black candidate and her as the white candidate, and is America ready? But obviously, he's just not your average black candidate, and not just because his middle name is Hussein and so forth, but the fact that he's half-black and his black half is continental African. And that matters. And we don't talk about that that much. But I think it's [important]. There are so many things that are different about Obama from historical black leaders. He doesn't come from a clerical background, which produced leaders over the years, whether it was Martin Luther King or Jesse Jackson or more recently Al Sharpton. He is half-black and so he's not full-blooded black, so to speak, and whether you believe in one-drop racism or whatever, it does matter. He's literally lighter-skinned. And that's something that's talked about in the black community and is going to have to be talked about in the white community. And that his black half is continental. It is different when your family is recently emigrated as opposed to being a slave descendant. And I think what's going to be really interesting about all this Rorschach notion of how white America sees itself and how white America sees black America is about how it views Barack Obama as a sort of sui generis black candidate. He is not Al Sharpton, and I think that's clear on so many different levels. But I think the question is, how much does his difference from Al Sharpton really matter?"
Sui generis??? I had to look that one up (some of us old people are woefully inadequate as the American lexicon constantly changes). It means, "constituting a class alone." A fitting description? Not really, there are plenty "light-bright-damned-near-white" highly educated, comparatively rich men like him out there who believe their skin color makes them better than (Brown Bag Test ring any bells?). Yet another sad truth about the Black experience in America.

A pleasing description to the senator from Illinois? Undoubtedly. How do I know? Well I don't KNOW, but back in February of 2007, when 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft asked Obama why he considered himself Black even though he was raised in a white household, the senator responded, "Well, I'm not sure I decided it. I think, you know, if you look African-American in this society, you're treated as an African-American." Sui generis, indeed.{smdh}

(Oh, that concession speech? Not as quickly forthcoming as I'd expected.)

2 comments:

Kitty Glendower said...

Yes, you are right. Everything about Obama, everything comes off as if he is white, a white man. Obama’s “blackness” is too fabricated, too contrived. To be honest, I think he learned race resentment as an adult, not as an actual victim of racism. Actually, I’m not sure if he really has any resentment. It is all an act. Which puts him in a precarious spot, because looking at him, of course he can be discriminated against in our white supremacist society. However, with everything you have ever heard about Obama, his story, etc, can you name one incident when you really feel like he was/is treated the way black men in America (especially in the south) are routinely treated (perceived)?

And white men are so ready, ready, just ready to call everyone who is not behind Obama a racist. This is reckless, irresponsible. When Obama loses will these same white men be around to pick up the pieces when a black man/woman is actually a victim of racism and the collective is no longer listening because they done heard so many unsubstantiated accusations of racism (“we know those Hillary supporters are not really racists but we said it to discredit them”). When Obama wins, will these same white men be around to pick up the pieces when a black man/woman cannot get ahead because the new narrative will be “there is a black president now, so what are you complaining about?”

And Donna Brazile has just lost her damn mind.

Deb said...

kitty...Hey. Thanks for dropping through! I agree his "blackness" seems to appear depending upon the crowd to which he's pandering. He is not kinfolk. I'm sure in his mind and that of his white handlers (they should know what disgusts and upsets white folks since they are them), he can't afford to be seen in that light and win anything, can't be perceived as "Sharptonesque" - not even on issues affecting us most.

Being skinfolk however is a blessing and a curse - kind of like "passing," but not. On the one hand, he can use that brown skin to make people see racism used against him that hasn't been and he can attract a large segment of the white populace who genuinely want to see a change (they're not all bad)or those carrying the guilt, because he fits the description of the safe Black man they can dare to support and *gasp* even like!

On the other hand, he can channel Martin (even small doses of Malcom)and whip the kinfolk into a frenzy of hope and change that'll undoubtedly spread like wildfire among us (and it has) yet not have to offer any specifics about how it'll positively affect them. I'm sure Axelrod etal were doing the happy dance over this shit.

But, as you say, he can be discriminated against or worse, because he LOOKS like kinfolk! Therein lies his dilemma I think - not for his resentment about being a victim of racism, but rather an internalized hatred of the blackness itself.

...can you name one incident when you really feel like he was/is treated the way black men in America (especially in the south) are routinely treated (perceived)?

Nope. But I went home to SC a couple weekends ago and I was shocked back into the reality that is not "All Obama, all the time." White talk radio in the South really think he's kinfolk!! And trust me, they're acting their usual, racist, rabid selves.

And white men are so ready, ready, just ready to call everyone who is not behind Obama a racist. This is reckless, irresponsible.

Right again kitty. it may be a "strategy" to them, but it sure doesn't bode well for us regular folks. Hell they were barely listening in the first place! And the new narrative has already begun in earnest. In Op-eds and blogs, I've been reading exactly that - not only from whites, but Blacks too. Contrary to this new thinking, we have not arrived at a place where we can be satisfied cuz we "got a Black president now," not without the necessary institutional and policy changes arriving hand-in-hand. What we'll have is another "Clarence Thomas" on our hands (call it my glass half-empty logic).

Donna sat through the Gore debacle and decided to play the game she saw played against them because it worked (Daley-machine politics on- board only made it work better). It didn't matter about the hypocrisy nor the lack of democracy of it all - she wanted to win. Yep, she lost her damn mind! :-)

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