Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?....I Didn't Think So

On my sidebar, I have a picture of an American flag composed of the colors red, black and green. I also have a quotation from W.E.B. DuBois about the dual identities all black people in this country have.

For most of my life, I've always considered my blackness more important than my American citizenship. Basically, if I had to choose between something that would benefit black folks, but could hurt America or something that would benefit America and hurt blacks folks, the former would win every time. I know that type of mindset disgusts some conservatives and even some other black folks, but that's the way my mind works.

I've read people in the blogosphere say that black Americans are some of the staunchest patriots in this country because we attempt to force America to uphold its core tenets instead of blindly praising every action this country and its leaders take.

But, I don't consider myself particularly patriotic. I don't say the pledge, I don't sing the national anthem and I didn't feel any anger towards terrorists after September 11th. When Barack Obama condemned his former pastor's belief in the static nature of this country, I was glad that Obama had such optimism, but found myself agreeing more with Rev. Wright.

This weekend, I watched Tim Russert ask Obama a series of questions about his association with Wright. In one question, Russert pointed out that the pastor once said that America has been founded on a notion of white supremacy and black inferiority. Russert noted that this type of thinking seemed to contradict the spirit of Obama's campaign, and asked Barack how he could have aligned himself with a man who seemed so diametrically opposed to him.

And I almost vomited.

I had to swallow my bile because I couldn't understand how a man as intelligent as Tim Russert could be shocked by the idea that this country was infused with the notion of white superiority. Russert is intelligent and well-educated, yet when he repeated Wright's quote it was as if he couldn't wrap his mind around the concept contained within the quotation.

And it's not like Wright is the first person to say things like this. So-called black leaders have been speaking this truth to power for generations and each time it falls on deaf years. Malcolm X was demonized in his life and death for having the courage to itemize the debts America owes to black folks. Ida B. Wells was called everything but a child of God for having the gall to point out that lynching was evil and at odds with a country built on a system of laws.

In the comments section of my last blog post, Lolo noted that her 11-year old daughter went on a field trip that offered her the opportunity to point out to her classmates the hypocrisy at this country's core.

Lolo's daughter said that this country's founding fathers were either hypocrites or idiots because they included the phrase "all men were created equal" in a document that categorized black folks as 3/5 human. Lolo said her daughter's classmates didn't appreciate this new information and basically refused to listen.

They refused to listen.

My inability to feel a true connection to this country is due to the feeling that this country and most of its white residents refuse to listen. There can be no communication, no true relationship without listening. Anybody who is married or in a serious relationship can vouch for that.

And this means real listening, not just being silent until it's your turn to talk. This means taking criticisms and compliments to heart instead of ignoring one while relishing the other. It means being willing to slap yourself in the face just as often as you are willing to pat yourself on the back.

In Tim Russert and the classmates of Lolo's daughter we have two different generations of Americans who have never learned how to listen. They have never learned how to question the ideals fed to them at the same time as their mother's milk.

We constantly hear that this country is moving forward, that things will only continue to get better, but if Americans never heed the complaints of those who can see the fault lines in this land, how can the future be better. The Bible says that building your house on a faulty foundation is just asking for that house to crumble.

I, for one, am tired of screaming about the obvious; I'm tired of having to explain elementary truths. I'm tired of watching television and listening to the same people parrot the same lies. Tired of reading the myths promulgated in newspapers and endorsed by politicians. I really wonder when this country will listen, when that true breakthrough we all need will come.

Or, are black people doomed to be a legion of Cassandras in a modern day Troy?


Mari-Djata said...

I'd say we're doomed. There are too many black people who are complicent in America. They ignore the truths, too. When the "revolutionary" black women and men try to educate sisters and brothers about WHAT is the problem and HOW to solve the problem, when it involves the individual "average" day black woman or man to change their actions, stop buying certain products, stop allowing their children or themselves to watch certain things, this person wants to become almost as ignorant as white conservatives.

People want rights, but they do not want to work for them. That is the problem. Black people do not have segregation to keep us unified. Without it, some of us actually forget what the problem IS. We don't NEED white people to listen to us --we NEED to take our money out of white establishments... especially BET. That will create immediate change. That is why we were allowed on the front of the bus in the first place.

I do believe black people are some of the most patriotic people in America. Since the beginning, we have fought in EVERY war. The Revolutionary War? Yep, even when we were slaves. The War of 1812? Yes, again. Civil War? Hell yeah, in LARGE numbers, for Mr. Buchanan, who didn't know. World War I/II? Yep, as second class citizens, all the way. Vietnam war? Ask Rev. Wright.

I understand the hurt of people who don't care to acknowledge your past and how it correlates to your present, as most black people probably do, but usurping ignorance doesn't need acknowledgement in the US. It takes money.

Lolo said...

"they do not want to work for them"

I believe that is the case for many of us, after all, we pay our taxes, the blood of our families has been spilled in the name of this country, we have overcome distance and hardship that many of our peers can not begin to grasp, why should we also then have to work for these "inalienable rights"?

Well, I've got to tell you just what I tell my children when they pest me for this and that and another thing they just gotta have. "Earn in. Commit your extra time to working for it. You have your basics but the rest? Work."

Not that you or I are children and our government are our mommies standing there and withholding toys so my metaphor doesn't apply but in this case, holding our government responsible for the job they often fail at doing takes work. Even that hour per week that you might take making phone calls or writing letters or attending your local city council meeting, our voices must be heard or we are indeed complicit in the lie they perpetuate on us.

That, to me, is one of the most valuable lessons that Dr. King and his fellow strugglers (and now Senator Obama) lived and proved. That the hard work of showing up, speaking out, standing there and refusing to disappear, taught us all. Yes, the money does count but the money also corrupts. Our unyielding presence combined with the financial impact of our earning and spending is a mighty force.

WNG said...

First of all, let me just say ditto to everything lolo has said in at least the last three posts, especially:'Even that hour per week that you might take making phone calls or writing letters or attending your local city council meeting, our voices must be heard or we are indeed complicit in the lie they perpetuate on us.'
Why don't people realize this? It's the ones who show up who get to make the decisions. Our parents and grandparents bloodied themselves beating down the doors, or at least wedging them open, but we turn our backs.
As much as I hate it and as I tired as I already am at 29 I know that they will not hear until we make them and they will not listen until we teach them. Should it be our job? No. But if you want things to change you have to change them.

Big Man said...

Y'all are right about the ones who complain getting the results. I see it all the time at the governmental meetings I attend. However, I've found that people tend to have trouble focusing on abstract, massive problems, but they will turn out to complain when a bar or club is slated to be built near their homes. I think the real problem is getting enough people to believe that they have the power to change larger, systemic problems.

WNG said...

That's where I think Obama's campaign fits in, Big Man. Not that he can fix problems - but that the act of electing him will awaken the young and the disenfranchised to the fact that regular people can get things done in government by showing up and letting thier voices be heard.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

dont vomit folk, they always trying to make us sick, speakin of which chk out my new post

Imhotep said...

Big Man, I share your frustration. I believe these mofo will never change until they have their "Road to Damascus" moment. Anything short of that will only maintain the status quo.

For Tim Russert a journalist who knows about jim crow and live throught the civil rights movement to ask such an ignorant question, is just baffeling. When their best and brighest is indifferent to the plight of Black people in this country, it shows there is no hope for reconcilation in the distant future.

All the positive things that have taken place in this country regarding race relations were agitated by Black folks. All the negative things regarding race relations were initiated by white folks..That's a fact! So they aint trying to understand.

I find it best to just ignore these mofo and give no value to their utterances.

Cassandra? I think not. At least she was viewed as a person, crazy but still a person. I saw you dropped some Orwell a few days ago, "All people are created equal, but some are more equal than other" That's more their attitude.

Big Man said...


That was one of my favorite books as a kid! That was a great book for middle school kids to read.

A.F. said...

"In Tim Russert and the classmates of Lolo's daughter we have two different generations of Americans who have never learned how to listen. They have never learned how to question the ideals fed to them at the same time as their mother's milk."

It's this failure to listen that is so upsetting. Instead of listening to minorities, many white people assume that complaints are a way of trying to "get over" and insist that they (white people) are the "objective" ones. Same goes for men not listening to women about their experiences, in many cases.

Gye Greene said...

To clarify -- when you say "For most of my life, I've always considered my blackness more important than my American citizenship. Basically, if I had to choose between something that would benefit black folks, but could hurt America or something that would benefit America and hurt blacks folks, the former would win every time." Do you mean black folk the world over? Or American black folk? Because I suspect that the people in most African nations don't feel a particular kinship to black folks in the U.S.; I suspect that local politics (nation; tribe) trumps "race" (actually: check out the genocide in Rwanda...).

And, I'd probably argue that you propose a false dichotomy (albeit a conceptually useful one). If you're indeed talking about "black Americans", then either way you're helping "Americans". And doing things that help black Americans in the short term probably helps **all** Americans (including the Caucasians) in the longer-term.

Re: Imhotep's assertion that "All the positive things that have taken place in this country regarding race relations were agitated by Black folks. All the negative things regarding race relations were initiated by white folks."

Saying "ALL the positive" and "ALL the negative" is a bit extreme... but recognizing that it's a throw-away line in a "comments" section, not a line in a book.

Bobby Kennedy was white: didn't he tell the National Guard "You let those black kids to the [white] school?"

Native Americans did **nothing**? They **did** take up arms against the U.S. military, to protect their homelands. Didn't AIM take over Alcatraz Island?

Japanese-Americans who were interned during WWII brought court cases all the way to the Supreme Court which -- one would think -- was then used in post-9/11 attempts to lock up various Muslims without trial.

(Note that I don't use the old "Lincoln freed the slaves" chestnut: he did it under duress [which bummed me out when I learned this]. There's a lovely quote about him saying that he'd do whatever it took to preserve the Union; if it meant freeing the slaves, so be it; if it meant keeping them enslaved, then so be it.)

I'll agree that race relations in the U.S. are **mostly** about "black and white"; but to disregard all them other folks also get hosed is (arguably) playing into a "divide-and-conquer" strategy.

I mean: **everyone** on one side of my family tree (in America) lost 99.7% of what they owned in 1942, because of their race/ethnicity (Japanese-American). Not too many ethnic groups in the U.S. can say THAT. ;) (OK - New Orleans -- hosed a lot of black folk -- but not the **entire** family tree, if a few relatives lived out-of-state.)


Big Man said...


When I said black folk, I was really thinking of Black Americans. I feel a kinship with black people all over the diaspora, but typically when I say "black folk" I mean those of us here in America.

I thought Imhotep's line was pretty broad, and you're right about race relations between other groups. However, when it comes to black and white race relations, I think if you truly examine this country's history every positive move has the urging of black people at its core. We have pushed for all of these changes. That doesn't mean white folks weren't pushing as well, but we were the ones who typically got things cracking. So, in a way, Imhotep is correct.

Imhotep said...

gye, Thank you for your response.

My comments were strictly related to the title of the thread "Can you hear me now?" which, ask the question why is white america unwilling or unable to listen and give credibility to the plight and grievances of Black people in this country?

Neither the queston nor the answer was miniority based. We're talking about Black people! I'm aware of the absolute nature of the word "All" and I make no apologies for using it in he context that I did. None.

BTW, yours is a commom ploy by the white man. He get's into word usage and ignores or trivialize the main issue. Can you hear me now?

If you want a white guy doing something positive, I'll give you John Brown, but not Robert Kennedy. Kennedy's response as attorney general had more to do with enforceing the law against white racist, than getting Black children into schools. If he was somehow involved in Brown v. Board, or a smilar case, then you would have a point.

As far as the Japanese & Native Americans bringing arms & action against pale face, well, I think you're making my point.

Saint Lucian Dutch Canadian said...

As a (black) outsider looking in, I think African Americans are doomed forever for the reasons detailed in the comments above.

I saw the Tim Russert interview as well and was struck by the comment too. White Americans are delusional and can't face reality.

Things will never change.

I think African Americans have fought in every war because they were searching for acceptance, which they will never get.

Gye Greene said...



I think I can understand where you're coming from.

The awkward bit in talking about race relations is that we tend to talk about groups as a unified whole -- when really, it's a collective of individuals. And there **will** be individuals that differ from the group.

So, when you initially stated that "All the positive things that have taken place in this country regarding race relations were agitated by Black folks. All the negative things regarding race relations were initiated by white folks." -- then the logical implication is that **no** Caucasians have started anything that was to the benefit of Afr-Am folks -- and **no** Afr-Ams have initiated anything negative re: race relations -- I find that hard to fathom.

"Most" or "nearly all" -- sure! Even "98.7% of..."

But **all**? Doesn't seem empirically possible.

To broaden things out to general race-relations issues: I guess that I'm troubled when a member of a group -- ANY group -- says "Don't stereotype us! Treat us as individuals! There is variation within our group!" And then turning around and referring to those OUTSIDE their group and painting them as a unified, homogeneous whole, acting with one mind. It's not logically consistent when ANYONE does it -- of any race/ethnicity/etc.

Again, the tricky thing in race relations is the balance the fact that people within a social group (race, ethnicity) have been systematically discriminated and disadvantaged -- but at the same time recognizing the variation within both the offending group and the disadvantaged group.

Tricky stuff.


Imhotep said...

gye, You've highjacked this thread and taken it in some meaningless direction, let's bring it back on course.

Big Man posed a legitimate question as to why white folks don't listen to what we (Black folks) have to say, and he used Tim Russert as an example. Russert seem dumbfounded when talking with Sen. Obama about white supremacy in this country. Russert a nationally renowned journalist, and the political editor for nbc, did not or could not acknowledge the role of white supremacy in this country. Russert position reflect that of white america.

Now, gye why(in your opinion)is a top american white journalist dismissive of the role of white supremacy in this country? That is the question to be answered. Can you answer that question?

Gye, what you have done here is similar to what the media did with the Rev Wright. They picked a couple phrases ran with it and totally ignored the valid issues presented by Rev. Wright. I, in now way compare with Rev. Wright, but you have latched on to the word "All" and given it way more importance than necessary, while totally avoiding the salient question put forth by Big Man.

If you have the time or the inclination go back and read my previous post.. Then we can talk about word usage and emperical evidence.

Lolo said...


I'm frustrated whenever persons of other ethnicities draw parallels between their experience in trumping/cooperating within white america and that of Af-Ams because they almost always completely miss the obvious inverse conclusion. What is that? Well this is how I see it.

Blacks are second only to whites in the date of their unwilling arrival on this continent. Got that? However you frame it, they've been far, FAR longer than any subsequent wave of immigrants. Now, if they have been historically eager or willing to perpetuate or tolerate the actions of themselves or their peers on a people who have been here almost as long as they have, what on earth makes you think they wouldn't turn on you/us in a heartbeat if they perceive us as a threat?

Look at what they did to the original inhabitants for bearing arms against them. Look at what they continue to tolerate even now. You want a glimpse at what real poverty and repression looks like, take a walk around most NA "reservations" and you can see how it goes for any people that dares to defy WA.

Me, I have always assumed that the only thing that keeps the foot of WA off our necks is that they have little reason to be afraid of us. When I read the views of other minorities that we get treated better due to some touted superiority in values, work ethics, education I just laugh in disgust.

The compensation of the Japanese Americans is one of those false perceptions. Hello, they rounded them up, handed out their belongings to their white neighbors, and then put them behind barbed wire once they felt they were a threat. It was only after they were made to see that those people were not threats, that there would be no "retribution" did WA deign to "compensate" them and if you honestly claim that said reparations were anything near fair economic compensation then please, don't drive while you're deluded.

It's called taking a step to the side when viewing a situation. Just move one step over and take another look at how it would go down if the sights are trained on you.

Me, it is about self preservation because if my government treats an entire group of folks in a certain way, I have to ask "what keeps it from doing that to me? what do I acquiese to if I allow it to pass unremarked, unprotested?" and know that karma dictates that I can not express dismay if noone speaks for my people if the same happens to us.

Big Man said...

Great comment Lolo.

I have made the same point on many occasions.

Gye Greene said...


I see your point.


Raving Black Lunatic