Posts Tagged ‘race’

Birthers, colonels & harvard law students

May 13, 2010

When I started this blog, my intention was never to spend my time writing about race issues. I figured that while race is still an issue, I should be able to avoid spending too much energy on it. The reality is that, unless you can read minds, you never really know what drives any particular behavior. There are always arguments that cast some doubt over the situation and leave you thinking that maybe, just maybe, this really isn’t about race after all. So I figured I’d just stay away from the whole race thing, and leave that kinda stuff to those people looking for work as civil rights activists. I just want it to go on record that I tried. Its just that some people make it really difficult.

Enter stage left, army doctor, Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, who is refusing to go on his second tour of duty because he has it in his head that the President was not born in the United States. This is not new. Ever since it became apparent that then Senator Obama could “win this thing” the nutcases started coming out of the woodwork (where apparently lots of nutcases reside). One such group of nutcases is the “birther” movement who hold the belief (or at least that’s what they say they believe) that President Obama was not born in the U.S. and so is not legally entitled to hold the office of President of the United States. This would be a huge deal if such claims were not debunked at every turn. His Hawaiian birth certificate was presented and verified, and media investigators along with Hawaiian officials have gone on record defending the validity of the document. The birthers, however, refuse to accept this and insist that the President provide additional proof. Maybe what they’re really trying to say is that Hawaii isn’t really part of the United States.

They have succeeded in infiltrating the ranks of the nation’s military and are apparently intent on undermining the very security of the country they claim to love. They have enlisted the good Lt. Col. Lakin, who, thus far has succeeded only in sullying his own reputation (sounds better than ‘looking like an idiot’ which he does really well by the way). I’m guessing that he thinks he looks all principled and stuff, but to me, when he shows up on national television, with his birther financed lawyer,words like petulant and racist, come more easily to mind. Racist is not an adjective I use lightly,and I sincerely hope that is not his motivation, but I am unable to see any other force behind this movement and behind people like, soon to be ‘Mr.’ Lakin.

He claims (or rather he mouths claims made by the birthers) that there is “mounting and significant evidence” against the validity of the President’s birth certificate. If he were really genuine in his intentions, then he would come forward with this ‘evidence’ and not leave us all in suspense. As for his lawyer, he brings to mind (to my mind anyway) that character in O Brother, Where Art Thou, who takes part in ‘venerated obzoivances’. Not the best choice Colonel.

As if this wasn’t enough, enter Ms. Stephanie Grace, Harvard Law Student, who catapults herself into the national limelight…..via email. In an email she, in her infinite wisdom, and with “grace” overflowing, declares, ‘ I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African-Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent’. I’m thinking I should not feel personally insulted, because obviously Ms. Grace, from within the bowels (yeah, bowels because you know what comes out of bowels) of her lily-white intelligence is fully aware that African-American is a cultural construct, and is not a synonym for Black. As such I have to assume that this genetic defect is peculiar to Black people who are born in the United States.

Let us suppose for a moment that she did mean all Black people. Since ‘racists don’t discriminate’ I believe this is much closer to the truth. Ms. Grace feels that the accident of nature that made her white, also made her more intelligent than Black people. I say Black people, because her email singles us out. It does not give any insight into how she feels about people of other races, so for now, we can’t quite call her a white supremacist…….not quite.

Ms. Grace later apologized and is apparently ‘heartbroken and devastated’ because she did not mean to cause any harm. Are you kidding me? At this point, if I am to follow her own logic, I have no choice but to believe that she herself must be African-American, because only someone ‘less intelligent’ could possibly believe that they could get caught saying something that stupidly insensitive and not expect any fallout. Perhaps she feels a change in the wind and thinks it has suddenly become ok to resurrect ghosts of a racist past. Well at least we know where she stands, which is more than we can say for the others out there.

The scary part here is that Ms. Grace is on her way to becoming a lawyer. Now I have no idea what kind of law she is intending to practice, but I am convinced that, no matter what, it spells trouble for any Black people who come within her sphere of influence, be they colleagues or clients. Black colleagues will know that she is merely tolerating them as one suffers fools, and Black clients cannot expect any fairness or objectivity in her dealings with them. Ms. Grace has unwittingly put a face on the systemic racism that exists today. Heaven help us if she becomes a judge.

Mr. Lakin is portraying himself as principled. I must assume then that based on principle, he has either refused his army salary for the past year and change, or is at least making arrangements to return any funds and benefits received over the past year and a half while the President has been in office. I mean, it’s the principle of the thing…….right? As for Ms. Grace, she is tryig her best to affect the role of the disconnected scientific observer, with all her calls for scientific data and such. Again, based on her own logic, it seems to me that her scientific objectivity is being called into question, since nowhere does she call for ‘scientfic data’ to prove that white people are ‘more intelligent’.  Come on Gracie, if you’re going to be objective about a thing, you need to do it right.

How dare she!!!

May 9, 2010

So Sandra Bullock, the popular White actress had the AUDACITY to adopt a Black baby. This has apparently raised the ire of some racial purists within the Black community, who, by the way, are not stepping in to adopt ANY of the children in the system, be they Black, White, or Green. Somehow though, they feel it is their duty to create a furor over this adoption. Apparently the timing is “suspicious”, and it is some sort of PR stunt because her husband cheated on her, not to mention the fact that this will cause the demise of African American culture as we know it…….uuuummmm….what????

This move on her part has started (or rejuvenated) a conversation on race and race relations that seems to have no end in the foreseeable future. You have people who make the argument that, (read slowly here, because you really have to follow this one) at one time White parents were not allowed to adopt Black children, and that such adoptions were eventually authorized, not for reasons of altruism, but because there were just too many Black kids in the system who were not being adopted. Okay, so maybe it’s not an actual argument, but rather one of those things people say to show that they read some historical literature………once. To use this as some kind of ammunition against interracial adoption boggles the mind. I’m guessing that these people also believe that slavery should never have been ended for purely economic reasons. Yeah, they should have kept my ancestors in bondage until they decided to end it for the ‘right’ reasons. It’s the principle of the thing dammit!!!

Then you have the whole ‘learn about his culture’ argument. Seems like unless ‘baby Louie’ grows up in a Black home, he will exist in some black hole (no pun intended) characterized by complete ignorance of his roots, and what it means to be Black. I don’t know Sandra Bullock personally and I have no idea whether this will be the case or not. I do, however, find it hard to believe that in the era of a Black American president, high profile Black business leaders, award winning Black actors, not to mention everyday Black heros, that this child will somehow grow up thinking that he’s White. This is not like that old Steve Martin movie where he is adopted into a Black family and only finds out he’s White when he becomes an adult. It is simply inconceivable that in the times we live in, that people can be so unaware of the diversity that surrounds them.

The unfortunate thing here is that, more often than not, when people make the whole “know your roots” argument, they are referring to the less flattering aspects of those roots. They are not talking about the great accomplishments of Black people throughout history. They are not talking about the many stories of success in Black communities today, rather they want their kids to submerge themselves in stories of slavery, jim crow, and Rodney King. They prefer that these children turn into Black men and women who are unable to interact with the broader community, and who act like people of different races are from a different planet and that they should all be feared and mistrusted.

The way I see it, I have more than enough stuff going on in my own life to have the time to be concerned about people who are still making interracial relationships an issue. I grew up surrounded by ‘mixed’ people so for me it was just the way things were. In my own case, it would take an army of genealogists to decipher my DNA. I see those stories of people who were able to trace their roots back to one one single place. My own genealogical makeup, however, leaves a much bigger footprint than that.

I’m thinking it’s about time that those with racial hangups ‘get with the program’. Harmonious racial relations is right up there alongside global warming and clean energy when it comes to the survival of the planet and the species. People need to get over themselves.

I am in no way minimizing what Black people went through (and still are going through). I am not, however willing to sit back and just let my history be my future. I have a daughter, and there is no way that I am going to teach her that there is anything she cannot do, just because she’s Black. Everyday I make sure that she knows that the world is her oyster. Everyday I let her know she is beautiful. Everyday I let her know that she is strong. Everyday I let her know that she is wise. I will not allow her to think that she is somehow less than anybody else just because of the color of her skin. So to the racial purists I say, ‘hold on, it’s gonna get bumpy’, and to Sandra Bullock I say, happy mother’s day.

Anything but Black

May 2, 2010

Over the past ten years I’ve met and gotten to know many new, and different, people; people of literally all races. I’ve gotten to appreciate a vast array of different cultures and the thing that amazes me most of all is how similar we all are. I’ve met Africans (I use this term to describe the people I’ve met from various countries on the continent), Indians, Pakistanis Asians, Europeans, basically I’ve become familiar with a whole bunch of people and cultures.

One interesting thing I’ve noted though, is the trend among people who are non-caucasian, to describe themselves “in living color”. It seems like nationalism has given way to the juggernaut that is globalization, and no longer do people identify themselves (at least in circles of high discourse) in terms of the region of the world where they originate, but rather there has been a resurgence of the “color code”.

Years ago, we heard talk of Black, White, Red, and even Yellow people. That seemed to abate (for all of five minutes) some years ago. Back then the planet was not as interconnected as it is now, so people were not so much concerned with color as they were with nationalities. They were much more concerned with important stuff like imports and exports and how to put their countries on the map as the best manufacturers of this, that, or the other.

Of course, with globalization, we no longer have the “protection” previously afforded by seas, national borders and just sheer distance. We have now been literally thrown together, and the newest “sexy” word to hit the airwaves is……….(drumroll)……..diversity. It seems like all of a sudden, everywhere you go, there is talk of cultural tolerance and diversity. It’s as if this whole diversity concept is somehow some fantastic new discovery (kinda like how Columbus “discovered that whole slew of countries for Spain). Being “thrown together” with people of varying backgrounds and histories is nothing new to me. I come from a place where you could probably find at least one person from every country on this planet we so love. when I was growing up though, we referred to the “melting pot” that we called home, as cosmopolitan. I guess “diverse” is somehow more politically correct.

So now that we no longer have the geographical protection, we once enjoyed, we have to find different tools to express our “differentness”. By far the most popular tool we employ is that of skin color (sort of). This, of course brings with it a “boatload” of history. By and large, skin color, has primarily been used as a weapon against Africans and people of African descent. We all have at least some idea of the history of slavery and the role that this whole concept of skin color has played in the history of the world.

Because of it’s early use as part of the artillery against Black people, we now find that people who are non-white, are making a conscious effort not to be in any way, form, or fashion, “mistaken” as Black people. Several years ago, I was introduced to my first “Brown” person. I was a little taken aback, because this person, (who happened to be darker than most Black people I know) was quite casually referring to himself as ……….Brown. Turns out that the old adage, “Black ain’t nothin but a color”, isn’t completely right after all; there are so many psychological issues tied up in that five letter word, you wish it was just a color.

So is Brown the new “not-Black”? Are people who are obviously not White, trying to make it as obvious that they are not Black? Are they trying to distance themselves as far as possible from what they see as some kind of stigma associated with being considered Black? Or is it that they simply want to carve their own niche, free to make their own way in this technicolor world, without any of the baggage that could potentially be associated with being seen as Black?……Hmmm.

It could be that the Brown people just want to make their own mark…..could be. It could be that Brown does not necessarily mean not-Black……could be. That would make a lot more sense to me, though, if the “color wars” didn’t extend into the Black community. I have so many “mochas”, “caramels”, and “chocolates”, on my instant messenger list that it looks like a Starbucks menu.


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