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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.


Utica-Post said...

That was an awesome article Dave.

So true, and better said than I've ever heard anyone in the mainstream media explain it. In effect, it's OUR generation that is finally stepping up...and I LOVE IT!


Utica-Post said...

Great article Dave! You said it better than I've ever heard any of the mainstream media try to explain it.

Basically, it is OUR generation that is finally stepping up...and I LOVE IT!


Anonymous said...

Dave, I am so sorry for being so late to this post, but I agree with Utica-Post. As you know, I am white in all aspects but name, which is Spanish (by way of Puerto Rico) origin.

I'd like to add to this post and say that having grown up in an inner-city environment in the 1970s, and having befriended and shared living space with black people, I can tell you that race was rarely an issue with us. We acknowledged it's existence, for sure, but we gave it minimal import to the relationships.

However, I'll make this disclaimer: I am white, and these are the views of a white man. Moreover, I can only go by my impressions of the relationships, which, to this day have not changed. A few weeks ago, I hooked up with some of my inner-city "friends" and was given a welcome befitting a long-lost family member.

So, yeah, in sharing my experience with you, indeed, it was only a matter of time that we'd elect a black man as President. And, I'm all the happier for it.