• 14Jan

    Racism don't work no mo'


    Illustration courtesy of James Blagden, www.jamesblagden.com

    The real impact of the election of Barack Obama will not be on Black people. It will be on those not familiar with the complexities of what it means to check that box “Black/African-American.”

    Yesterday my wife and I had a, let’s call it an interaction, at our children’s day care/pre-school. There was a problem with our bill. This problem had become so intense for the good folks at accounting that a rather nasty letter was sent home threatening to remove our children from the facility if the issue wasn’t addressed the next business day. Without getting too much into my business, the whole issue was a miscommunication involving credit cards and emails and authorizations. Easily solved.

    What had me seething with anger was the tone of this letter. The idea that you would pull a 2 and 4 year old out of school on a day’s notice was beyond unprofessional. Beyond rude. It seemed incongruent with the philosophy of a childcare facility. Now mind you this harsh letter was the first and only communication of this financial discrepancy. And they chose the nuclear option out the gate. It made me think, who do they think we are? Some down and out family looking to game the system? Some Bernie Madoff hustler who speaks proper English? It just made no sense to treat a valued customer of over two years so harshly, so quickly. I came to the conclusion that they looked at us and jumped to some fundamentally wrong conclusions. Black couple. No one wears suits. Sometime the Dad comes in looking far from professional in Army fatigues and crepe soled Clarks. Parents are friendly with the mostly Black and Latino teachers as well as the receptionists, and cleaning staff. They do not look or act like many of the other parents who are either staff members or DUMBO residents.

    The author of the letter clearly felt that she had the leverage to take this heavy-handed tone. The power was in her hands and we were just a little Black family that could get pushed around. Well as I said, cooler and more professional heads prevailed and the crisis was averted. On the way home is where I had my epiphany. That woman didn’t know who she was talking to. She didn’t know that Dad was a private school, boarding school, UVa educated small business owner. She didn’t know Mom was an Ivy League MBA, teaching three college classes. She still thought she could use the old model to size us up. Herein lies the true legacy of Barack Obama. With him and the family in the White House they are a living argument for the impracticality of racism.

    Racism is set up to allow you to cut corners. Oh you’re White? You’re not Hip-Hop. You like Garth Brooks and playing golf. Black? You like basketball, snatching purses, Fiddy Cent, and BET. Asian? You are mad good at Math and eat rice at every meal. Latino? You’re an illegal immigrant. And the ignorance goes on and on. The truth is, to generalize along those lines is beyond offensive. It’s silly and impractical.

    And you know who knows this more than anyone today? The foolish bigots who went to Harvard Law School with Barack. The classmates who decided to make fun of the skinny, Black kid with the funny name are kicking themselves. They are kicking themselves because they are shut out from the political and economic spoils of a Barack Obama relationship. On the other hand those classmates who were able to see past cultural and racial differences and build a true relationship with the President elect are feeling good.

    The reality is that the classification Black has so many more facets than they did even a generation ago. Now, that dude with the sagging pants could be a truant or it could be Kid Cudi. That dude in the Yankees hat getting off the C Train at 50th Street could be a messenger or he could be Jay Z. The dude at the gala in jeans and a t-shirt could be the server or it could be Russell Simmons. That Black woman getting her coffee at Tillie’s on Vanderbilt may be an administrative assistant at JPMorgan Chase or it might be Councilwoman Letitia James. A cursory look will not answer that question anymore. And you’d better be careful because that Black person you decide is a deadbeat could be president in eight or twelve years. Watch the way you talk to Hakeem Jefferies. He may be just be a State Assemblyman from Brooklyn now, but six years ago Barack was just a State Senator from the South Side of the ‘Go.

    We, as Black people, know this. Our parents have taught us this. Barack is no phenomenon. He is the result of millions of dreams, thousands of protests, and countless sacrifices. We know exactly what he represents. He is us.
    Now the rest of y’all will also learn the lessons that Hudson Jackson taught me. And that will change the world.

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