Thursday, July 23, 2009

La La La, I Can't Hear You

"Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact," Obama said.

"That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made," he added. "I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made. And yet the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, this still haunts us. And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently and often time for no cause casts suspicion even when there is good cause. And that's why I think the more that we're working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody is going to be."

Those were the words President Barack Obama spoke at his press conference Wednesday when he was asked about the incident involving Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and a Cambridge police officer. As you can see, they are measured, they are calm and the try to provide a fair assessment of what happened. Nobody is called a racist and police officers are not arbitrarily condemned. Yet, Obama manages to convey a simple truth about life in America for black people and Latinos.

Now, I would encourage those of you with strong stomachs and minds to check out the comments section on this article to get a sense for how the president's comments were received by some people.

Those of you brave enough to follow that link saw that despite Obama's attempts at fairness, it wasn't enough. The vitriolic comments left at made it clear that many folks believe that anybody who mentions "race" or "discrimination" isn't worth listening to, particularly when that person is a big-eared, purple-lipped Negro pretending to be this country's lawful president.

I long ago learned not to assume that comment sections represent the thoughts of the "masses," so I'll just assume that those comments represent the feelings of a vocal minority. Either way, they are disturbing.

I touched on this theme in this blog back during the presidential campaign. As you can see, it discusses the phenomenon of the "Good Negro" and even provides some helpful rules for those of you seeking to adopt that mantle.

In truth, Obama has shown himself to be quite skillful in navigating the murky racial waters of America. He follows the "Good Negro" rules most of the time, and rarely manages to let his mask fall. Yet, often it seems like with certain folks, he still can't win. No matter what he says, not matter what any black person says, they just don't care.

If you're talking about race, you might as well shut up.

Like many black folks, I've grown cynical about racial discussions. They seem to be the ultimate no-win situations. People don't listen, they get angry, and ultimately, they blame you. Often, it seems like the only reason to engage anyone with a dissenting opinion on race is if you have hankering for a good argument.

Responses like those the president receive only confirm my view. Though Obama tried his best to speak from a middle ground that everyone should be able to agree with at least partially, to many folks it was as if he was a raving black lunatic calling up the hounds of Hades on all good white folks.

Even the police officer got in on the act, telling the world he was disappointed that Obama commented on his actions without all the facts. How ironic coming from a man who readily accosted a crippled old man in his home on a vague tip that turned out to be ridiculously false. How often do you think Officer Hurt Feelings has called a suspect a scumbag, or assumed guilt, without "all the facts?"

This whole race thing has become a farce. It's damn near pointless to discuss it with people because most folks have no interest in looking at the world from a different point of view. When comments as bland and unassuming as Obama's can be twisted into Black Power rhetoric, it's obvious that there is a real problem. It appears that most Americans, particularly those with a lack of melanin, are running around with their fingers in their ears remarking on how quiet things are in the world.

And I have no idea how to fix things.



macon d said...

Surely there's hope . . . somewhere?

Yeah, there's a lot to be hopeful about, of course, but yeah, some days it's hard to see that. I hate how the racial nastiness is always just waiting to pounce on Obama. He's unleashed it now. Maybe that's why Cosby thinks he should've kept his mouth shut? Not to give that man much credit for apparent acuity about how matters of race matter.

Esquire said...

I touched on this a bit on my blog as well.

Nothing is ever racist, but I think I came to that conclusion when I heard the defenders of the kids who hung the noose in Jena.

Now matter how legitimate the complaint, there will always be someone swooping in to claim we are playing the race card.

So my response is fuck em. Might as well just go ahead and say what you think and be done with it.

At the end of the day, as you state better than I did, it doesn't matter how you try to phrase it, it will never be good enough.

so just say what you think and keep rolling. It certainly never stops the other side.

Big Man said...


There's always hope. Just not so sure about the solutions right now.


I believe I wrote a blog about how much white folks hate to use the words "racist" or "racism" for anything.

Cats are comfortable with calling folks thugs, animals, and scum, but let them hear you call somebody a racist and they act like you are pissing on old ladies' hair. It's crazy.

Deacon Blue said...

Maybe we need degrees of racism, like we have self-defense, manslaughter, premeditation murder, etc.

That way, the "light racists" (of which I'm sure 90% of people would qualify...LOL) could separate themselves from the Gamms-level visitors and Omega-level "drag a black man behind a pickup truck for no good reason" racists.

macon d said...

and Omega-level "drag a black man behind a pickup truck for no good reason" racists.

You're making me wonder what you think IS a good reason for doing that. . . I sure as hell can't think of one.

Lisa J said...

"Cats are comfortable with calling folks thugs, animals, and scum, but let them hear you call somebody a racist and they act like you are pissing on old ladies' hair. It's crazy."

This. Spot on, Big Man. It is crazy. Not sure if I mentioned this already on here but I had a friend, a good friend of almost 17 years, tell me that I default to race too often (I really don't recall talking about these things with him too often) after I pointed out that had Hinkley, Regan's shooter, been poor or black (forgot and left out Latino initially) he would have been put under the jail and though I loathed Regan I don't like folks shooting at a Prez. He wanted to know why I didn't leave it at poor. I was so upset, and fumbled so much in my explaination that I just started to cry --I do that sometimes when I 'm mad. It was so frustrating to have someone who knows me so well and who I almost love like family so grossly misunderstand me and think I'm somehow being close-minded for defending my people who have been through so much. He felt sort of bad though and told me to stop crying or else someone would think he was dumping me and then he bought me another bear. I really need to get stonger in dealing with these things or to try harder to not even mention race with white friends b/c it always ends in misunderstanding.

Big Man said...

Next time ask your friend, "Who decides that it's too much.'"

You don't think it's too much. I probably don't think it's too much. So, makes the decision that it's too much. That should get a much fruitful conversation going. The real issue is that your friend doesn't want to hear about race, so he doesn't think you should talk about it. Explore that mindset.

older_not_wiser said...

I've been away (mentally & physically) the last couple of weeks and have been running through your last few posts, catching up.

You sound pretty discouraged. I don't blame you, but if you check the link now (early AM 28 July UTC) the more recent comments are a good deal less savage than the earlier ones must have been. The monkeys have flung their excrement and gone back up into the trees. (I'm a little surprised to know they even read... newspapers.) There are more thoughtful people in this country than first impressions might lead you to believe.

Deacon Blue said...

@ macon d...

Just a turn of phrase. I use that along with descriptions of lots of heinous or unnecessary acts against lots of folks. No subtext need be read into it.

Though, I suppose there ARE a few people in the world for whom I wouldn't shed a tear if they met their fate that way...but they would have to be some truly evil beings.

macon d said...

Okay, got it Deacon Blue, thanks for the explanation. I was just taken aback by it at first, but now I see where yer coming from.

Deacon Blue said...

It happens, macon d...I am reminded of the time that some guy used the word "niggardly" in an office memo and people got all over him because the word was so close to the racial ephithet and those who got incensed didn't know what the word they thought he was a racist.

Subtle things and innocent things can cause significant triggers sometimes. Communication, sometimes, is a bitch...or a bastard, if we want to steer clear of possible sexism...

Raving Black Lunatic