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Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

So here is a frame that is increasingly annoying and troubling. The idea that presence of the Obama family in the White House presents a new face to America about what black families are.

Black first family changes everything

I agree, wholeheartedly, that the images presented over generations of what black people and black families are have been severely limited and problematic. The article slants the piece in such a way, though, that focuses on pathologies in the black community as the only reality. It sets the Obama family up as the ones who will not only correct that notion, but also the ones that will straighten out black America. And yeah, I get that there is some of that going on and that it is good. I don’t want all the “role models” out there to be involved in sports or music. However, it has never been the case that that is where all the role models are, where all the successful black people are. The images that are chosen to portray us are drawn either from that stream – sports or music, or from the stream that shows us the poverty stricken criminals, you know, the ones that Bill Bennett wants to abort.

As one of the women quoted in the article says, “We don’t get to see black love.” She is right – we don’t get to see it. That does not mean it isn’t there, hasn’t been there, and won’t be there in the future. We don’t get to see it in the media because it is not shown. What passes for black love is too often fetishized and pathologized. We are not used to seeing black love, not because it does not exist, but because it does not fit into the narrow frame of who black people are, according to those who shape the images we see. And yes, I am well aware that sometimes those images are shaped by us – black people.

The black first family does not change everything, as the CNN headline asserts. Yes, I am glad – so glad to see them there. But what will change everything is not just the image of this successful, loving black family in the white house. What will begin to change some things, and then more things, and maybe work towards changing everything is making sure more people have the opportunity to achieve the things this family has achieved is to assure the basics of life that provide stability to every citizen. Things like health care, decent educational institutions that are adequately funded and serve all children well, and living wages. Supporting families so that they are able to get what they need to survive physically will go a long way in maintaining good psychological, emotional and spiritual health. And no, it’s not just about throwing money at problems. It is about building a national – no, a global consciousness that understands that within a society, individuals and individual family units are connected to one another and it is within the best interests of us all to tend to that interconnectedness. If a society decides to throw away a segment of their population (whether designated by race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, whatever) by first not acknowledging their humanity and from that denying them the rights and benefits of the society, then yes, things will go horribly wrong. Rugged individualism does not a healthy society make.

It is not until the very tail end of the article that we are given a glimpse of another reality:

Barbara McKinzie, international president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, says she grew up in a small town in Oklahoma surrounded by black couples and an extended family of teachers and neighbors, who were knit together like the new first family.

She didn’t need to look at the Inauguration Day festivities to see a vibrant black family.

“It’s not new, but it appears new,” she says. “The president and his wife and children are not a novelty in the African-American community.

“It’s the only family I’ve known in my life.”

h/t Rachel’s Tavern

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Inaugural Poem

“Praise Song for the Day,” written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander on January 22, 2009

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need.
What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

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You know what – No.

RNC chairman candidate defends ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ song

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I don’t get very many mass emails of the paranoid propaganda type forwarded to me, and when I do, I generally roll my eyes as I hit the delete key. Occasionally one of those emails lands in my box courtesy of someone that I either care about, think should know better, or both. In those cases, I’ll run the text of the story through Snopes or Urban Legends, and then forward evidence of the fake-ness of the story to the person who sent it to me. All that to say, I don’t give them a lot of thought, and when I have to think about it, I move on pretty quickly. For instance, a couple of weeks ago one of my students forwarded an email that has been going around for several years, having to do with the supposed rude and condescending response of a major network executive to a viewer who had complained about the “homosexual agenda” in a program. After running the email through snopes, I learned that the email was indeed genuine, but it was not from an executive, nor was it the official position of the network. I sent the information back to the student, the student issued a sheepish “sorry,” passed the info on to the rest of the people she forwarded it to and we were done.

Because I don’t traffic in nut-wingery, at least not that of the rightwing kind (yeah, I’ll cop to a little leftwing nut-wingery from time to time) I knew about the vicious anti-Obama emails flooding in-boxes across America only via hearsay and on the occasional blog. I knew they were out there, and I knew they were harmful, but I really didn’t think about them, you know? I was more concerned about the things that were being said on radio and television, what was happening at conventions and conferences and later on, at campaign rallies.

The other night I went to a meeting at my church. After the meeting, while most of us were out in the hallway bundling up to go home, one of the older (white) women in our congregation came over to talk to me. She is a sweet old woman, probably in her seventies. She recently read something I wrote that was published in real life, under my real name, about the campaign, the election and it’s aftermath.

The woman told me, kind of shamefacedly, that she had not voted. I was a little surprised. Then she went on to tell me that she was afraid. She was afraid of Obama, she said, because she had gotten so many emails offering “proof” that he was a Muslim and a terrorist. She was afraid of what was going to happen to the country if Obama won the election. She did keep assuring me that it wasn’t because he was black… it was the Muslim part that got her. And I want to believe her truth

Now, I knew this stuff was out there… I mean, it’s the whole reason the emails were flying around, along with all the other propoganda – the buttons, the waffle mix, the “satiric” magazine covers. But here I was face to face with a person I knew … telling me about the fear and confusion that had been placed in her. I don’t know if the people sending the emails to her were people she knew or not; in some ways it doesn’t matter. But it other ways it does, very much so. It means that someone was deliberately taking advantage of her because of her age, at the very least. And they got away with it – they frightened a woman who, because she is a citizen of this country has every right to vote – but they deliberately frightened her and effectively silenced her. She did not cast a vote for the person they wanted … she just didn’t vote at all. How many, many others did not vote for that reason? And, as my example above illustrates, it’s not just the elderly that get pulled into believing something just because they got it in an email from a friend.

And it makes me angry all over again – not at her, but at those who would not only disparage fellow human beings – an individual, on the one hand – fair game, I guess some would say – politics being what it is; but also entire groups of people – black men in particular, people of color in general, Muslims. That tactic was evident to anyone paying a marginal bit of attention – accuse him (or anyone) of being a Muslim; that will take away any measure of trust.

As I finish this post, I note that the Supreme Court has rejected the appeal over Obama’s citizenship… another wildfire internet rumor. I guess that’s something.

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Obama Election Spurs “Hundreds” Of Race Threats, Crimes

_Four North Carolina State University students admitted writing anti-Obama comments in a tunnel designated for free speech expression, including one that said: “Let’s shoot that (N-word) in the head.” Obama has received more threats than any other president-elect, authorities say.

_At Standish, Maine, a sign inside the Oak Hill General Store read: “Osama Obama Shotgun Pool.” Customers could sign up to bet $1 on a date when Obama would be killed. “Stabbing, shooting, roadside bombs, they all count,” the sign said. At the bottom of the marker board was written “Let’s hope someone wins.”

_Racist graffiti was found in places including New York’s Long Island, where two dozen cars were spray-painted; Kilgore, Texas, where the local high school and skate park were defaced; and the Los Angeles area, where swastikas, racial slurs and “Go Back To Africa” were spray painted on sidewalks, houses and cars.

_Second- and third-grade students on a school bus in Rexburg, Idaho, chanted “assassinate Obama,” a district official said.

_University of Alabama professor Marsha L. Houston said a poster of the Obama family was ripped off her office door. A replacement poster was defaced with a death threat and a racial slur. “It seems the election brought the racist rats out of the woodwork,” Houston said.

_Black figures were hanged by nooses from trees on Mount Desert Island, Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported. The president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas said a rope found hanging from a campus tree was apparently an abandoned swing and not a noose.

_Crosses were burned in yards of Obama supporters in Hardwick, N.J., and Apolacan Township, Pa.

_A black teenager in New York City said he was attacked with a bat on election night by four white men who shouted ‘Obama.’

_In the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, a black man said he found a note with a racial slur on his car windshield, saying “now that you voted for Obama, just watch out for your house.”

via

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I love it that I can write that heading.

5 November 2008

Senator Barack Obama,
Chicago

Dear Senator Obama,

We join people in your country and around the world in congratulating you on becoming the President-Elect of the United States. Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place.

We note and applaud your commitment to supporting the cause of peace and security around the world. We trust that you will also make it the mission of your Presidency to combat the scourge of poverty and disease everywhere.

We wish you strength and fortitude in the challenging days and years that lie ahead. We are sure you will ultimately achieve your dream making the United States of America a full partner in a community of nations committed to peace and prosperity for all.

Sincerely,

N R Mandela

h/t Monica at TransGriot

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The day after

I spent election day glad for the many distractions that would keep me occupied – classes to teach, students to meet with, even an evening conference call. But eventually… it was just me, the internet and the returns.

As I caught up on my blog and news feed reading, I kept up with the electoral vote counts. Eventually Obama climbed to 240, and seemed to stay there a bit.

At 11:06 I noted there were 284 electoral votes on the Obama side… could it be? I started scrambling around for news feeds…

Ten minutes later I become aware of McCain conceding…

This wasn’t the way I imagined it happening. On the heels of the 2000 and 2004 election, and at the end of an increasingly vicious campaign on the part of the McCain camp, I assumed wherever we stood when the polls closed, whatever the outcome, it would be contested. There would at the very least be an all night deliberation, as in 2000, or at the worst, something that dragged out for days, like in 2004.

I know now that I let myself get too wrapped up in the negative campaigning, the downright scary stuff that was happening in the McCain/Palin rallies. As I watched the Obamas being called terrorists, anti-American, socialists and worse, I imagined this was all of America, or at least all of white America, looking at me and my people. I mean, intellectually I knew this wasn’t everyone. I had been quite heartened, for weeks, at the preponderance of Obama signs around the city and in my neighborhood, and the numbers of co-workers, neighbors and friends who were working their butts off for the Obama campaign.

Even so, I didn’t want to set my sights to high. We have hoped before, right? And when you lower your expectations, then the disappointment isn’t quite as harsh – or at least that’s what we talk ourselves into believing.

And so I had hope… to a point. I don’t think I ever let it sink way down deep into my soul that this could happen in the America that I knew. And granted, America has been pretty good to me. But I am not an island. I am connected to a people, to a history, to a story that is larger than my own. I am the descendant of people brought to this land through no will of their own, and who owned nothing, not even themselves. I am the daughter of parents whose childhoods, teenage years and young adulthoods were prescribed by the brutal limitations of legalized segregation. I am the mother of sons to whom I taught the lessons every black parent despises – if you are stopped by the police… keep your hands on the wheel. Say yes sir and no sir. Say I am reaching for my wallet – it is in my back pocket sir. Reach for said wallet slowly. I am the mother of a daughter who does not conform, as I do not, to the standards of American womanhood. It is a hard, hard thing to realize that you, and those who look like you, belong to a class of people that are feared, despised, disregarded.

And so it is a hard, hard thing to hope. Oh, I could say the words. And practically everyone I knew was saying the words along with me… and doing the work, showing up. Hoping, praying… breathing in the possibility of change. I don’t know if I really believe we can change the world. But I do know that I can’t not try.

So last night, as the news became real… I did what so many others of you have reported. I cried. I laughed. I cried some more – tears of joy, tears of relief. I went into their rooms and shook my children awake. I wanted to be the first to tell them. “He won. Obama won. We have a new president.” One who looks like you.

It is a hard, hard thing to hope. But it is a harder, and far worse thing, I think, to have despair as the only bread to feed your children.

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