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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…

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Comments

JW...it seems in your last paragraph that you want to define those who opposed President Obama from the beginning as bigots. I opposed Obama from the beginning. Am I a bigot?

It was very clear from the campaign that Obama wanted to take the country in a different direction. He used the words "fundamentally transform" on numerous occasions. Those words are as loaded as your use of the word nigger.

Outwardly Obama talked about "crossing the aisle" and "working together," but his actions, experience and language gave a far different appearance.

I did, however, give him the benefit of the doubt once he won. Now, three+ years later, I am even more convinced than before that we need a change.

Look what has happened in the past few days. We are in the middle of a war on terror...several of our embassies are attacked ON the 9/11 anniversary...AN AMBASSADOR is KILLED...and our President's first instinct is to recognize the validity of the feelings of the ATTACKERS!

Should the President be so brazenly concerned with Muslim religious feelings and at the same time be so bold in his attack on the devout beliefs of Catholic Americans? There is an inherent contradiction in his belief structure...or at the very least, a complete lack of perspective on the proportionality of his action.

Some in opposition to Obama may not have given the appropriate amount of respect/benefit of the doubt he should have received once he assumed office. That likely made his job significantly more difficult. However, Obama has proven, with nearly every step along the path of his Presidency, that our initial concerns were valid. His actions (particularly in the past few days) are confirmation of what so many of us initially felt.

*** Art, don’t ask me if you are a bigot. Figure it out yourself. There is an old saying, “throw a rock in a pack of dogs the one that howls is the one that got hit. Are you howling? Were you hit? How were you hit? Remember, the only way you could have been hit by my statement is if you are hanging out with that crowd. I said those “who refused to respect him before he took office, and continue to disrespect his presidency.” Do you fit that description? If so, then if you “disrespected” a newly elected president who had not been given a chance to prove himself, what would have been your reason for doing so? Have you ever treated another incoming President with such disdain? There are questions for you to answer Art, if you disrespected him? From what I read in your post you disagreed with him, his promises, perhaps even proposed policies, but did you disrespect him? I’d say no to that from what I read. But the saying “me thinks he doth protest too much “ may be in full effect in this case. Why else would you be misinterpreting me as you do?

Michael Steele, the previous RNC Chairman doesn’t see the world the way Obama does, but respected his presidency. Steelel picks apart Obama’s strategies, but always gives him respect. None of this ridiculous Birther” stuff. None of this he’s not American stuff. Because Steele is Black I guess you would imply, or suggest perhaps I’m implying, that he couldn’t be a bigot. But he could, just as I could or you. So, as I always do, I self-reflect and ask myself the tough questions. Am I sexist? Classist? Racist? Do I have a problem with White authority? Do I sometimes objectify women? Am I a good father, poor father, or even a joke? People can have their opinions of me but no one is harder on me than I am because I self reflect. So, my brother, if you haven’t done so lately, try it. If you have and your conscious is fine, good. But be careful. When you accuse someone of doing something that is based on their written word and it can be proven simply by going to the source (my actual blog) that you are grossly wrong, it does make you look as if inner turmoil may be wreaking havoc. I hope not.

Oh, and while you claim the word nigger is loaded, nothing is more loaded than a gross misinterpretation of what really is quite clear, dissatisfaction is not equal to disrespect. But by my calculations “Birther + Non American + Conspiracy + Party of No == P/C/N. P equals “Problem,” C = “Criminal,” N equals…well let’s just call it “No brainer.”

Only you know if you have ever gone that deep in self reflection. Only you know if you’ve ever disrespected Obama beyond his honest efforts to lead this country. Not respecting someone’s work, after they’ve had a chance to actually do it is a world apart from disrespecting someone just because?

Discussing politics with you is intense because you really struggle with your privilege, even more than you did before you started to engage diversity & social justice. As a highly intelligent man it must be quite difficult for you to have a very strong sense of fair play competing with what MAY BE a subtle but very strong socialization in terms of your way of seeing ( Now, remember, you asked me if you were a bigot. So, my response to my take on your identity is what I’m giving you. If you hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t be going here). However, as I may have shared with you before, Albert Camus once said,

“Beginning to think is beginning to be undermined.”

So, in your quiet moments you must really wrestle with knowing certain things weren’t right no matter how much you try to trivialize them. So really, we can’t go far in a discussion about Obama’s worth as a leader. I believe he has endured grossly unjust treatment that no other elected leader of our country has ever been subjected to. Of course he is going to look bad when a plot was devised to undercut his presidency after an economic crisis. You dismiss this as if its okay because he is the president and as part of the job he has to rise above it. What a joke! It never changes. The criteria is more demanding for his success than other previous presidents, but the expectation is that he achieves as well if not better than them. Seriously, we can’t even start the conversation because of this. Obama was tasked to run the same distance as all other presidents, perhaps with some different weather conditions than some. But he is the only one ever forced to run with 20 lb weights on his ankles. You seem to think we can truly discuss his merits further along the race though as if he was impeded out of the blocks. We can’t and I won’t. Give him a different start and the race could be so different. Without that start, it’s all speculation. So, vote for your president and I’ll vote for mine. Hopefully whomever wins will exceed the expectations of the naysayers and we’ll all live happily ever after. *** -- J.W.

JW-

You are good at framing a discussion. I responded specifically to the last paragraph with an example of an inherent contradiction in Obama's actions/thought and you chose to take the time to question ME?

The post was about Obama, right? I getting really tired of this. I've been posting here for more than 5 years and you continue to ask me/tell me to self reflect. I've spent more time on this blog responding than ANYONE else and you continue to imply I may be oart of a group of bigots. Maybe we've demonstrated over 5 years that the effort isn't worth it?

And Obama's the only President strapped with 20lbs of external pressures on his ankles when he assumed office? I guess things like World Wars, depressions, and other events out of new President's hands just don't count, right?

*** Art, you started your entire post by asking me if I thought you were a bigot, didn't you? Well, didn't you? If you don't ask that "personal" question I don't go there. So first and foremost, please own that.

The fact that you asked that question, especially under misguided premises (disrespected is the term I used that you didn't process correctly) is another reason our conversation got personal. Your implying that I see anyone who disagrees with Obama as a bigot is a personal slam against me, implying I'm a farce in my professional role as well as an idiot. But I guess you can't see your role in our dysfunctional engagement of this difficult topic.

Lastly, and the point that you appear to still not get, all presidents inherit drama from world events and other president's administrations. I UNDERSTAND THAT. Obama however is weighted down with more for some reason. Knowing your educational Background I assumed you would be able to see that. I guess I was wrong...

JW-

My question to you was written entirely in the context of disagreeing with Obama. I certainly did not ask for you to spend paragraphs telling me to self-reflect and begin to think. Is not 5 years of discussion with you proof enough that I'm in constant self-reflection of how I'm situated in this community/on this planet?

And finally...I DO UNDERSTAND exactly what YOU fail to see about history. Other President's HAVE been weighed down as much as Obama for varying reasons.

You want specifics? FDR. Prior to his election there was a known plot to overthrow him once he achieved office. Essentially a coup. Extremist threats. DISRESPECT. Sound familiar?

And how about Kennedy? Our 1st Catholic President...who once stated:

"...because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected president, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in — for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in."

You see, in a blog post, it's not possible to put every detail of every thought I have down. I like banter. I like edgy. However, ALL my comments were specifically in relation to Obama and an interpretation of how we view him. You chose instead to insult my efforts to broaden my view by "prompting me think."

No one said Obama had it easy. I AGREED he had a difficult road from the beginning. However...to kid-glove him by saying he had it harder than everyone else is not only false, it's disrespectful to HIM as we start to situate him in the history of Presidents of this country.

JW? Is this how it ends?

*** At some point, it must. What do we accomplish? You feel disrespected by me taking paragraphs to challenge you to self-reflect, but not once own the fact that you disrespected me by insinuating that I am insinuating that you might be a bigot because of how you misinterpreted what I initially stated. Not once, in all of your postings on this topic have you owned that fact. And as you've already stated, you've known me for 5 years. I guess that isn't long enough for me to get the benefit of the doubt that you think I should extend to you.

I loved your specifics. I am always about learning and this conversation has taught me many things. You introduced me and perhaps some others reading this blog about Kennedy's perspective on some of the struggles (as the first Catholic president) he had to endure. I also didn't know about the plot to overthrow FDR. Fascinating stuff! But after 5 years of knowing you and knowing many of the things you've studied, many of the conversations you've been a part of as well, if you don't understand the differences in motivation towards Obama as president and precedence in the political milieu we find ourselves currently in and the context of the other presidents and their times that you referenced it just appears to me that you may never. I'm sure you can if not do see me the same way. So, yes, it ends here.

Good luck with your passionate support of whomever you ultimately step into the voting booth to support. *** -- J.W.

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