Saturday, November 8, 2008

I don't get it.....

When Obama gave his acceptance speech on Nov. 4th, I noticed a look in his eyes and on his face that I had never seen before. Instead of a shit-eating-grin or a look of gratitude or humbleness, Obama instead looked like a man that just took on the weight of the world. I suppose, in looking at, he did, but this look even transgressed past that.

On Nov. 5th I was watching the Daily Show and John Stewart said to Chris Wallace that he had just watched it come “full circle from slavery and [it] affected [him] on a personal level.” And that is when it hit me, that look, was the look of a man who understood fully what he had just come to represent.

I will be honest, I don’t get it. I have moved past judging someone by the color of their skin. I don’t look at Obama as “black” nor do I look at him as “white.” I don’t understand the mentality that brings forth “black pride,” “strong black woman,” or “FUBU” simply because I don’t look at myself and see “white” which is how I know I am seen to those that see themselves as “black.”

I don’t get it. If MLK is such a revered person in the black community why do so many black Americans see color, judging both themselves and me by the color of our skin and not by the content of our character? I have lived on this earth for over 50 years and although I did not grow up in the South, I came of age when blacks had the same rights as me. I went to high school with blacks, played sports with blacks, worked with blacks, went to college with blacks, and employed blacks in my business. I moved past the color issue, or at least never made it that big of a deal in my life.

I don’t get it. Other than 40 acres and a mule, the US has bent over backward to be inclusive, making laws against discrimination, establishing affirmative action policies, and supporting minority owned business set-asides. I have seen black mayors, and senators, governors, Generals, and cabinet level members throughout my life. Blacks must have had to see this too!

I don’t get it. Professional sports are dominated by black athletes, not just basketball, but all of them. Name a white “pro” that dominates in his field and you need to go back a few years. And look at entertainment. Oprah, Bill Cosby, and Michael Jackson at one time dominated the list of “richest” entertainers. Quick, name five comedians and most likely at least three of them will be black. It is all there, visible in – excuse the pun – black and white. Why can’t they see it and just move on? I don’t get it.

And then, it dawned on me as to why - it never went full circle for American blacks. There has been a stain on the collective soul of black America that has never been completely erased by any of the forward movement that has been made. This stain is apparently so set in that it cannot be removed even by superior athleticism, wealth, jobs, status, education, housing, culture, or power. And this is something that I can’t ever understand. As Token on South Park* told Stan , “you don’t get it.” And just like Stan I can honestly say now that I get it because I don’t get it.

So what I think I saw on Tuesday night was possibly a full circle being completed. Obama had made it to the mountain top. He did not get there because he could run faster, jump higher, hit a golf ball, or entertain us. He wasn’t there because of affirmative action, handouts, gerrymandering, white guilt, or anything else. He got there because 52% of those that voted felt that he – a black man – was good enough to be our leader.

So black America had their Sally Field moment last Tuesday and could finally say “they like us – they really like us”! Did prejudice and bigotry go away that night? Nope, and in fact may rear its head even more ugly than before. But it has been marginalized. Obama must have sensed it that night. He must have realized that he had become the symbol for the mountain top that King had talked about reaching but never did. So I can only speculate that the look in his eyes and on his face was probably from realizing that what had just been placed on his shoulders was being supported by the legs of a mere mortal man.

(*) "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson"

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