"ignore the story. see the soul. remember to love. you will never regret it" --- Seane Corn

"ignore the story. see the soul. remember to love. you will never regret it" --- Seane Corn
it's a jungle out there

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Be Bwave Fursday or Be Bwave Fwyday: Obama=O.J.

maybe I'll start a trend
if it's only me, is it still a trend?
be bwave fursday or be bwave fwyday
depends on how my brain's feeling
maybe we need a button

Let me say, I'm not a fan of Israel or our country's relentless support of its policies and actions. But I am not anti-semitic. By any stretch of the imagination. Israel doesn't define individual Jews. Nor does Israel define all groups of Jews. Nor does disagreement with Israel necessarily equal bigotry.

And *race* is about as general a term as *germ*.

Obama doesn't define individual blacks
forget the african american euphemism. Nor does criticism of Obama necessarily equal racism or evidence that those same critics use the *n* word at the dinner table. I'm sure there are plenty of folks who hate Obama just because he is black. Just as I'm sure there are folks who blindly support him just because he is black. And I think there are folks who have a lot of influence and power who use the black and white opinions so to speak to further their own agendas.

I'm thinking that our feelings about race are so connected with our experiences from birth, that it's a mucky muck task to see the issue clearly. I know my feelings and views about being black in america are based solely on my experience as an
arguably black girl growing up here. That's how it is for each and every one of us. We can really only see through our own eyes. I say arguably cause I don't fit the mold. Because in order to classify and generalize, there has to be a mold. Black west indian father. White mother. So maybe father's not really black because he has a charming accent from the islands and he's a surgeon...

I don't think of you as black.
what the fuck does THAT mean?
Your father reminds me of Sidney Poitier or Bill Cosby.

We lived in a relatively exclusive NY suburb. And we had a big house and fancy vacations and a sports car. But we were also like the only black family in our small town who didn't live in "the projects". Which were obviously not projects. It was just an apartment complex. But most of the black folks in our town lived there, so... projects. And in school, whenever slaves were mentioned in social studies, it felt like all eyes were on me. Guilty by complexion. as though I should be embarrassed or ashamed, and god knows I was. And if everything on TV in the 1970s was white, except for jokey JJ, or pimps and robbers, where do I fit in?

All I can do is assimilate all my experiences and form a construct to try and understand. And as humans, I think those constructs are formed very early on, when the pathways in the brain have not yet hardened into concrete. At some point we're all just kids trying to understand how the world works. And if we're lucky, at some later point of relative maturity, we can decipher the roadmap and understand why we feel the way we feel, and think the way we think, and react the way we react.

I'm guilty of categorizing too. I'm guilty of sometimes not separating the individual from the symbol.

I remember walking into an exam room a few years ago, and seeing a 14 yr old, a young black manchild, shackled. This boy had been a patient of mine for 10 years. Raised by his grandma. My patient. Shackled. Escorted by a white police officer. I was too shaken to ask why or what. All I could do was examine him and give him a clean bill of health. I couldn't trust my voice, but I must have had quite a look on my face cause the cop looked at me, and kind of gently said we're not the bad guys. I sobbed in the bathroom. Even though this kid must have done something pretty bad, all I could see was white man and shackled black boy.

When OJ was acquitted, I wept tears of joy and relief.
Now don't get all crazy on me... just hear me out.
For me, OJ became a symbol of all the black men who had hung from trees or been whipped or beaten to death. Or denied basic human rights. Or jobs. Or, post civil rights, had the white collar job, but still took to wearing a suit and tie every day even on saturdays as protection against being arbitrarily pulled over by white cops. OJ became a symbol of vindication for me. yes, I know he was the defendant. justice is subjective. And I'm sure he was a symbol for others. Though I don't recall too many admitting that at the time.

I'm only human.

So it's kind of the same with Obama, I think. Michael Moore doesn't want to criticize him during a Charlie Rose interview. People hem and haw about the Nobel Peace Prize. He was supposed to save us. Says who? There's a saying among some black folks. You have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good. Seems like President Obama is under a super electron microscope. Why is that? Why is he being held to a different standard than any other president?

But I'm holding him to a different standard, too.

My 9 year old told me that the New York Times ran an article outlining Michelle Obama's family tree, and that she's not all black. I had to laugh. Granted, I don't know the source of Ty's information, or it's accuracy, but my mixed mixed mixed race kid who has grown up in our mixed mixed mixed race extended family can still recognize that if Michelle Obama's heritage is New York Times news worthy, then race sure as hell does matter.

I think the race issues in this country are as complex and varied as individual Americans. And sometimes I think that opinions or attempts to generalize and categorize race issues in either an attempt at understanding or an attempt to further a cause can be misleading. Or inaccurate. Or maybe destructive. Destructive if people react rather than reconsider. Sometimes it's hard not to react until you've honestly looked at where you stand on an issue. And why you stand there. Maybe all we can do is compare our own experiences. Good or bad, proud or ashamed, judgemental or tolerant. Whatever. It is what it is. As long as it's honest.

We're only human.

And as humans, I believe we're pretty much still functioning in the time of the woolly mammoth. Fight or flight. We need to size up what's safe and what's not pretty quickly. It's in our genes. And other is a threat. Different is a threat. And I think this is where racism/intolerance/bigotry is born. It's in our DNA.

But somehow, as humans, we have the capacity, sometimes, to overcome evolution and DNA and our ancient instincts. Sometimes we're able to reason ourselves out of the primordial goo. But the goo is pretty fuckin sticky.

The older I get, the less I know. It seems like I could find all sorts of studies, or publications, or programming to support and corroborate absolutely any opinion I want to justify. With all the info that's at our fingertips, anything can be rationalized. I don't trust any of it anymore. Now that I'm over the hump of my 4th decade, I'm feeling like all I can do is examine my own thinking, motives, and actions. And know that I know nothing. Cause many things I thought to be true, maybe aren't that true after all. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's kind of a relief.

So yes. I cheered when OJ was acquitted.
even though he's pretty much a scum sucker.
And if Obama was white, I wouldn't have been so swept away last fall.
OJ, Obama, my patient, they stand as symbols.

All I have between my ears is a tangled roadmap that I'm trying to decipher. Just trying to understand myself, and then maybe I can understand others better. And I'm trying to get the goo off my feet.

You feewin bwave???


  1. Much to think about here Michelle.

  2. Excellent posting!! I think you've hit on a very complex issue, here. I believe racism will always be around, unfortunately. I am white, but my adopted Asian baby is already getting weird looks. I voted for Obama because I believed in his ideas, and I was glad OJ was acquitted because the prosecution sucked. However, I do think OJ was guilty.

    Anyway, you've given a lot of food for thought. Thank you!!

    -- Beth L. Gainer, www.bethlgainer.blogspot.com

  3. Great post.

    The other day, my sister asked me where I stood on the Obama-peace prize issue, and I had to honestly tell her I couldn't be objective. But for a very different reason. I am so in love with him (he is my secret boyfriend) that there's no way I can think about him rationally. How bad is that? I said to her they could give him all the prizes, including that for hairdresser of the decade, and I'd be happy. He's just so great.

  4. Interesting ...

    I don't know how I feel about OJ. Didn't know then, still don't. I don't know that he killed these two people, don't know that he didn't. But I do know that I was working a lot with domestic violence at the time and while I realize there's a big difference between hitting a partner and killing a partner, I wondered what message was going out about domestic violence when he was acquitted.

    Though I wanted the trial to be about the issues at hand (evidence, motive, etc.) rather than a message.

    I saw it through my filters as a woman, knowing many battered women.

    I see Obama so entirely differently. I hear people who voted for him upset with him and I have to ask, "Um, did you think he would do whatever you wanted because you supported him? Would you like me to explain the political process to you a little more?" Obama represents me and my interests, and I trust his judgment even when I don't agree with him. I trust his values and his intelligence. I like that he's "Black" (whatever that means) because it's about damn time the power stranglehold held by white males is broken. I like him because of his mother and what she taught him; because of his wife and how smart she is, because of his daughters and how they're being raised. I am happy whenever he does something politically that I agree with, but I don't expect that all the time.

    Oh, and your patient - my heart just GOES OUT. Beyond the symbol - which gets me impassioned - but to the person as well, and his particularities.

    I think the boundaries between symbol and individual are blurred and flexible. I remember when a friendship died ... a former teacher was having a really big problem with a student. She said he physically was intimidating and threatening her. But I had the kid and knew him well - and the only intimidation was that he was soooo very dark and very large (in 8th grade, almost 6' tall and at least 250 pounds). She was scared of him as a symbol and this seriously affected him as a person - how could he learn math when the teacher kept sending him to the office if he even breathed? so he would be retained and not enter high school, and there's no doubt that retention at that level is a nearly sure-fire way to make a kid drop out, which seriously negatively affects future prospects ...

    And the thing about the Nobel Prize - Obama did not nominate himself or push to win - OTHER PEOPLE nominated and awarded it. Any criticism of Obama over that I think is highly suspect.

    I find much of the criticism of Obama highly suspect because I do agree with Carter. Certainly I love a diversity of opinions and "some of my best friends are Republican" - but the personal attacks I hear are too often motivated by something uglier than diverse views.

    I definitely do not believe racism will always exist - in large part because with each passing generation fewer people are any one race. It's never been static and maybe we're noticing that.

    HOly moley I can just go on and on about this. Pity you're not here eating Creole white beans with me, hashing it all out!

  5. You know how I feel about Obama and racism. I have written a good deal about racism on my blog and I have honestly tried to deal with the subject from MY perspective, which is the opposite of yours- I grew up white in the south. I was always the one embarrassed when something like slavery came up in a mixed classroom. In fact, one of those posts was entitled something like, "What Is The Color Of Our Lens?"
    I completely agree with you on the DNA thing- "other" is a threat. And color is so obviously a way to judge otherness. A false one, but it's there for all to see, unlike being a closeted homosexual or something- it's always there to see.
    You know, during the sixties/seventies, there was a sudden thing which happened where, because of music, I feel quite sure, folks of all colors began to meet in ways they never had before in this country and there was respect and there was something very beautiful going on.
    Where did that go? I often wonder.

    Darling, I am proud of you for talking about this. I think that if everyone did, and we quit hiding the dirt of our souls under the rug, we would all be so much better off.
    As always- with love and admiration....Ms. Moon

  6. brilliant michelle.

    while reading your post, there were SO MANY things to which i thought i would respond in my comment. but after reading some of the comments
    my head wants to explode a little bit, and my head exploding always makes me feel bwave. so here goes:

    you write this brilliant post about race and what these two powerful BLACK icons mean to you, and it IS brave.

    but then, it seems to me, the meat of the post was asked to politely leave the party; 'here is your coat, thank you for coming, don't let the door hit your big, black, swaybacked ass on the way out'.

    obama is black. not 'black'.

    he has my utmost respect as a black man who has remained eloquent, graceful, and poised in the face of extraordinary challenge and opposition, not to mention threats on his life and family.

    i would be out for blood if i were him.

    but i AM disappointed. not because i expected him to change the country, but because i imagine he also endured the same sense of shame to which you and ms moon speak.

    his mom was probably as baffled about his hair as was ours.

    perhaps he STILL hears the spectre whisper in his ear that regardless of g.p.a., ivy league, or the fancy pennsylvania avenue address, he should remember that he is Damn Lucky to be in whatever hallowed hall to which he has been 'given' entry.

    maybe that is why he mentions in a speech that his grandfather was able to purchase a house after serving in WW1 due to the GI bill, but he fails to mention had it been his BLACK grandfather who returned home after risking his life for this country, he would NOT have been given the same opportunity. for THAT i am disappointed.

    i am disappointed because his administration drops the term enemy combatant but adopts almost the same standard as the previous administration to detain people without charge.

    i could also go on and on.

    so, yeah, i am racist because i expected a black man, the first black president of the YOU-nited states, to call a spade a spade.

    so sue the bwave waysist. it's the american way.

  7. I just wondered over here, and this entry blew me away. So much to mull over, it's hard to know where to start. But yet, many people do surely support Obama because he is black, because he was supposed to save us and even though I have lilly white skin, I did breathe a great sigh of relief when he was elected. I still breathe easier because he is in office, and I really don't know why. NOT because he is just simply not GWB, but because I think he's a good man. Would it be true if he were white? No idea, because he isn't, and we just can't play the "what if" games sometimes.

    Much to think about, and I'm not sure any of us will ever have the answers to some of these questions.


so... wadaya think?

Your fairy is called Columbine Icedancer
She is a bone chilling bringer of justice for the vulnerable.
She lives in mushroom fields and quiet meadows.
She is only seen when the bees swarm and the crickets chirrup.
She wears lilac and purple like columbine flowers. She has icy blue butterfly wings.