The More Things Change-The More They Remain the Same: Air Jordan – Rare Obama
Though most people seldom if ever process the socio-economic class implications of how they see race, once we stop and really ponder it, it is hard to deny the relationship. The pejorative phrase, “poor white trash” immediately conjoins the two so the need to unpack the phrase probably would feel like overkill. However, when we look at the word “nigger” the undertones of its meaning are vast if not duplicitous. Nigger originally meant property, which morphed into a problem for those who either had to compete against the so-called Negroes attempting to define themselves, or those who no longer had legally sanctioned control over niggers-as-property that of course were once viewed as second class if not the bona fide underclass; criminal (though as newly liberated without resources what were their options), and less than human (legally 3/5 of a person). While all of these aren’t always consciously in a person’s mind when they say or think “nigger,” subconsciously perhaps they are. At least, that is what I’ve discovered from teaching “The Philosophy of W.E.B. DuBois,” African American Culture from 1865 to the Present” and “Examining Diversity through Film” at a predominately white university, working around the country with Dr. Eddie Moore Jr. presenting The Nigger Word” workshops, and reading a plethora of scholarship on the topic. Has that definition changed? I would make the argument that is hasn’t. Subtlety being what it is, or isn’t, I would make the argument that a wealthy, well educated Black person who is bold enough to have been successful in America, could still be seen as a nigger subconsciously by Blacks suffering from self-hatred/internalized oppression. As well, many non-Blacks who think they are of a liberal mindset when it comes to race struggle with seeing once so-called Negroes as anything other than niggers the moment a Black person threatens to adversely affect their reality. This isn’t a reaction racially restricted to non-Blacks ways of seeing. Any seeming oppressive gesture by a White person, for many Blacks, is conveniently considered Cracker-like (as in the overseer cracking his whip over the back of a slave).
As an example of how it plays out for the prevailing racial hegemony though, consider our current president, Barack Obama. Though not technically Black, but more Bi-racial, it isn’t real difficult to associate some, if not many, of the descriptors of nigger with Obama in terms of the way he was initially received. So, just this once if you haven’t ever done it before, put aside his performance as president and consider his ascension to his office and the possible perspective on him by others attempting to put him into a perspective that benefits them.
He is definitely a problem because he represents the floodgates opening to an array of different perspectives that would/could threaten those who don’t welcome change, or at least a change that might have their value lessened. With hindsight being 20/20 there is no doubt that Hillary Clinton might have been preferred over Obama, though the can of whip-ass political policy that she may have thrust upon the American public may have had the GOP once again wishing for an Obama White house. Before you dismiss this take on competitive pettiness as over the top consider Isaiah Thomas, ex-basketball great of the Detroit Pistons (now more known as inept coach and general manager). If you’ve heard it said that sports are a metaphor for life, contemplate this. Upon recognizing during his playing days that there may be a threat to his elite status/superstardom as one of the leagues premiere guards, Thomas allegedly attempted in the 1984 NBA All-Star game to organize a freeze out (denying the ball) to Michael Jordan. He then further demonstrated his professional immaturity and self-centeredness by not just avoiding shaking Jordan’s hand when the Bulls finally got past the Pistons in the '91 NBA playoffs, but also as their leader, influenced others on the team to ignore respectfully if not appropriately acknowledging the Bulls’ victory and encouraging them on to winning it all. And for those of you who remember the Jordan Rules, Thomas’ pettiness came after Jordan took physical beatings from the Pistons Bad Boys Rick Mahorn, Bill Laimbeer, and Dennis Rodman (who would become a teammate of Jordan’s) that could have ended his career. Is it a stretch to imagine the same thing being done to Obama, especially after we have knowledge, journalistically framed by Michael Grunwald’s investigative book “The Party of No,” of the meeting that occurred by Republicans during the early days of the pre-inauguration as well as during the inaugural ball. It may be a new thought that some of you have yet to imagine, but the pettiness that exists in humans is as real as it is sad. Think about it. Under no circumstances should it ever have been the case that the Obama presidency and fear of the loss of governmental power should take precedence over the need to do the right thing for the American people. Unless the conspiratorial members of the GOP vainly believed that they alone held/hold the keys to what is the right path for America, how could they be planning to throw a newly elected president under a bus when he hadn’t even surfaced on the street? Especially after eight years of a Republican administration they unabashedly supported that situated the American economic system on the brink of bankruptcy.
Here is a quote from Grunwald himself:
“TIME just published “The Party of No,” an article adapted from my new book, The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. It reveals some of my reporting on the Republican plot to obstruct President Obama before he even took office, including secret meetings led by House GOP whip Eric Cantor (in December 2008) and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (in early January 2009) in which they laid out their daring (though cynical and political) no-honeymoon strategy of all-out resistance to a popular President-elect during an economic emergency. “If he was for it,” former Ohio Senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.”
Now, Time magazine is as reputable as they come. So let your conscience be your guide as you process this excerpt.
And like Chuck Daley, who coached the Pistons throughout that period where the Pistons were the kings of swing (and I’m not speaking of dancing), if Daley doesn’t get a pass from me as their Coach during that period where the Jordan Rules were unfairly implemented, neither should others who know exactly what is taking place but choose to stay comfortable in their roles as bystanders. This would include the American voter who blindly ignores the antics of their elected officials. It's like looking at the January 1, 2012 interview of Rick Santorum in Iowa where he clearly refers to Blacks as welfare recipients in a state where 80-90 percent of the welfare recipients are White, only to deny he said it, emphasizing ridiculously that instead of Black he was merely saying "blah," though there is incontrovertible proof that he did. On some level the recent political scenarios that have played out are more farcical than real.
In terms of our Bi-racial leader, figuratively, if not literally, how do you logically and fairly judge someone’s ability to run a race when one of their hamstrings has been cut before they even start? Assessments of Obama's presidency that don't seriously engage the unprecedented obstacles he has had to endure are about as fair as prejudging a single mother's ability to ensure her 3 children are doing their daily homework when she is working 60 hours a week out of necessity.
Obama was/is seen as a problem because of his popularity, different way of seeing which could result in a more caring president in terms of the underrepresented, and potential to further make his predecessor look even worse. Obama was/is seen as ignorant dependent upon the context (though so-called Negroes’ ignorance was a function of their being systematically denied the opportunity to read which parrallels the systematic antics of the Party of No). Obama is/was seen as criminal by association with the interpretation/allegations against Attorney General Eric Holder, for his policies that are often framed as socialist in a capitalist society that struggles with stomaching anything counter to it, and as well as the way he has been painted by the Birther movement (because if he isn't an American born citizen then his presidency is illegitimate, if not criminal). Why don’t those who refused to respect him before he took office, and continue to disrespect his presidency just stop veiling it and just call our first Black president a "nigger." After all, that's how he has been treated. to paraphrase the saying, "If it appears to be a duck, and we treat it as a duck, well then it…
Lastly, If you’ve never heard my full take on bullying, then let me reacquaint you with the fact that while I think far too many people don't see themselves for the bullies they actually are, I see bystanders as bullies as well. If for no other reason than their empowering bullies to continue on with their victimizing, bystanders are often as repulsive as those bullies that entertain them. And tragically, I don’t think that we focus enough on the bullying that we model daily, locally, regionally, nationally, and politically.
Yes, I said it, and I’m not just saying…