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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Imagine That

Here we are nearly a month removed from our historic Presidential election and for many of us, the fact we have a Black President-Elect is just starting to settle in.

No one was more shocked and amazed by Obama's victory than Black people and, of course, racists.

Actually the idea was more appalling to the racists than shocking because whether they choose to admit or not they also knew Obama was the better choice.

Perhaps we will see a spike in highblood pressure from outraged white people unable to vent their seething frustration in a healthy way. People mad for no reason.

I wonder how many didn't vote?

I also wonder how many people who, in public denounced Obama, gave him their vote?

But Black people and racists agree on one thing, we never saw it coming and up until the last second many of us believed something would happen to stop it.

Like the racists we have accepted the standard. We have lived with an imaginary barrier all of our lives.

Those of us over thirty at least.

You see, we had an imaginary barrier enforced by all the television and news reports you could digest. A barrier constructed and held up by black and white people. A barrier made up of accepted stereotypes and prescripted outcomes.

We all played our role.

The elder generations of blacks ( African American if you care) seeking evidence of the lingering American Social Disease...racism.
The elder generations of whites denying it's very existence.

Those under 30?
The new generation...recreating the paradigm.
I have said this before (after a few drinks) and you hear it here for the first time:
"Will Smith helped elect Obama more than anyone else"
More than the pundits, Hillary's flubs and even more than McCain's age and The Republican Party's agenda of death.

Because despite all of those things many people would still have bought what was being sold(Ronald Reagan) if they were being spoonfed the same Fantasy Island crap as we were during the eighties.

Will Smith ushered in a new understanding of the enigmatic 'Black Man'. But he did not start there. I can piece together enough from my vivid memories of his introduction to the American mainstream that will more than support my theory.

You see, I believe imagery, especially the background noise of television and radio, profoundly affect our present views on what is real, socially digestible and relevant to our lives.

The first films that hit the bigscreen helped people imagine. The imagination took a backseat to reality in those days. It took days-weeks-years for a thought to travel the globe. Nowadays I feel it is the other way around. That is, reality takes a backseat to imagination.

Imagination has always fueled the world, insured progress.

Now more than ever.

Who can forget when Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince debuted with the stellar Platinum hit "Parents Just Don't Understand"?

Probably the first rap album who's sales were fueled by white parents buying it for their kids.

The crossover appeal of the Black Middle class had already struck gold with the Cosby Show but Smith and his positive raps were a whole different phenomenon.

He appealed to several demographics at once , he enjoyed a broader audience than Cosby from the outset.

The marketing gurus at NBC were salivating after they signed him up for the seminal early nineties sitcom 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air".

At a time when the young black male was statistical anathema to all things decent, Will Smith was the answer.

And he continued to provide answers.

He built, through his choice of roles, the most positive body of work regarding the Black Man's image in the history of American Entertainment. Only Paul Robeson had dared and demanded to be portrayed as the Alpha Male despite the hostile climate he lived in. Obviously his career was compromised as a result of that and, of course, his poltical views.

But Smith is a different story, the promises of equality gained through civil rights made it possible for black people to participate in our huge entetainment industry with less scrutiny than before. We snuck in with shows like Good Times, Sanford and Son, The Jefferson's and That's My Momma ( I cannot help it, I am chuckling just typing this).

A new era for T.V., white people were actually allowed to laugh at us and, (can you believe it?) with us.

But it was time to get real and we were feeling it, we started to complain about realistic portrayals. People started to wonder why we always 'carry the knife' or 'play the pimp'.

The brief Richard Pryor Show was a potent tonic for all that ailed us but it would only survive four episodes before the sponsors pulled out.

You thought Chappelle was funny ...shiiiiit- no doubt he watched it too.

Back to our portrayals-We would always talk about this amongst ourselves.

Will was the answer.

Yeah he clowned his way into the mainstream but once he got there he held our attention.

He took the risky role of a gay conman in Six Degrees of Seperation. That role effectively took all of the Gangsta (that is associated with rappers) out of Smith.
All the while he nurtured and maintained his relevancy within the black community and the world of hip-hop.

He continued to act, choosing motuon pictures as his new vehicle of artistic expression.

What followed was flurry of Block Busters starting with Independence Day. He was such a good actor he took the hoochie out of Vivica Fox, he made Martin Lawrence a leading man.

The recent blockbusters have only added to his (I am) Legend.

A subtle commercial for The Capable Black Man. Played for two hours for all of our kids to see.

The Last One - (John)Hancock was released with scientific precision.

During the home stretch, a subliminal buffer for all the senseless negativity that floated around the ethers.
Remember Hancock's scullcap?
A Bald Eagle

Like I said only older black folks and racist worried about the outcome of the election.

To everyone else, it made perfect sense.

Friday, November 14, 2008

McCain Wins around here.

In Utica New York people live in a bubble. A tightknit, well preserved, bubble of developmental retardation. It effects everything from the Arts, Food and the Economy. It is a provincial attitude of exclusivity that has effectively shut the door on progress.

The fact McCain carried Oneida and Herkimer counties speaks for itself.

I know a local cop.

He's black (one of nine black officers out of nearly 200).

There is currently a pool at the station for how long Obama can survive.

A complete stranger ( white male) walked up to him and said : "you people got all the power now".
A complete stranger.

I guess we will know for sure when the arrest rate goes down. When we are not the only people on death row.

I guess we will know when there are more of our young men in College than prison.

I know we will have power, not to be confused with arrogance, when the imagery of a Black man in the most important job in the world settles in with our young boys and girls.
Black and White.
When they can secretly say to themselves two simple words: 'I Can'

Perplexing concept right?

Black President. Where are all the psychics now? No one in the world even thought it was possible, except me and Obama.

I'll admit I did not get on the bandwagon until he announced his run in 07'.

During that time even the black pundits scrutinized him. In his hometown , Chicago, Mary Mitchell from The Sun Times put him to the 'blackness test'.

But what possessed that guy to come up to complete stranger and blurt out his misguided opinion. My officer buddy was on his second sip of coffee of the day and was so offguard all he could muster was: "Power? shiiiiiit I want some damn money".

There will be a white backlash. All one needs to do is listen to the conservative pulse and you will hear hate, fear and frustration.

Ancient hate for anything not the same as them.

Fear of Black Men.

Frustration with the current scam being pulled on them by the very people they elected and currently support.
A backlash carried out by staunch, pragmatic racists. People who understand how little Obama can do about daily indiscretions people do not even know they fall victim to.
Dirty stuff like" "Oh, we don't have any applications and we are not hiring anyway".
You ask to speak to the manager and explain how you saw the ad in the paper. He explains "Oh yeah that ad...a simple mistake, we already filled that position".
You go out on a limb and explain that you were instructed over the phone (where anyone can be white with enough practice) to come down and : "fill out and apply". Things get awkward and you realize you would not want to work where you are not welcome anyway.
Obama was symbolic and a tonic for our Global reputation but it will take years to...
Because they (racists) know how little Obama can do about the coded language and subtle slights that are a part of everyone's life. Because some of our local elected Democrats admitted in private they did not think America was ready for a Black President.

It needs to be said again: in places like this, Utica, even Democrats voted for McCain.
A kneejerk reaction to the preposterous idea of a Black man in charge.

One of the kids that regularly attends the community center I work at was kicked out of class and suspended for singing a popular new variation of a rap song that includes the chant : OBAMA-OBAMA-OBAMA. He didn't get kicked out during class but while entering the class.

It was homeroom.
It was already bad enough around here.

White people have enjoyed a sense of entitlement for a long time. Here, in Utica/Rome and everywhere else in America, except the deepest of Black communities. Most do not carry around their privilege card. They move about the world with compassion and respect- even kindness.

But a few are scared. A few believe they are losing something. A few believe the welfare gates are going to be flung wide open and black folks are going to get reparations for slavery and years of disenfranchisement.

To a few this is a nightmare.

They do not take into account the big business welfare policies we have adopted in place of social welfare. They fail to realize that many of them them fall into the very demographic that will benefit from Obama's proposed tax plan.

Another friend told me he was talking to an ex-girlfriend (white ex) regarding the election. This wise Rochester resident shared her fear that: "now you guys are going to start acting know... like you got power." He stared at the phone like it bit him.

Personally, I won't be happy until I get the simple and humble benefit of the doubt. I won't be happy until people stop making uneducated assumptions about me or anyone who looks like me. I won't be happy until I do not intimidate strangers by my mere presence.

I won't be happy until the generation that overwhelmingly supported Obama (20-30 yr olds); the generation that I have accused of being 'dumbed down' and unenlightened, is in charge.

They also know cars can run on water and ethanol is impractical- stupid.
Hurry up guys- get involved.
This is your world now.