Tuesday, May 08, 2007

i'm sorry, sir, your black card has been declined

Please first take a moment to check out at least the first couple of paragraphs of this news article:

my city is in the midst of the political frenzy leading up to the democratic primary elections. we have five major candidates of varying experience and qualifications, and despite what the polls say, i think this thing is wide open. anything can happen. and since this is virtually a one-party town, this primary may very well decide who our next mayor will be. let it suffice to say that this is a very hotly contested race.

one of the candidates, a former city councilman named mike nutter, has proposed a controversial policy to combat the crime plaguing our neighborhoods - it's controversial because in part, it advocates stopping people and frisking them for weapons. among others, one of his opponents, congressman chaka fattah, believes that this policy is tantamount to racial profiling, and they were debating this topic on a televised debate last night. in the midst of this debate, nutter said that he's been black for 49 years and should know something about the subject. fattah, who is also black, said to the moderator that he was sorry that nutter had to remind himself that he is a black man.

now. pausing to pointedly put the politics of the policing policy to the periphery (say that fast 5 times,) i must say that i am truly pissed with congressman fattah for even going there. first of all, this response had nothing to do with supporting fattah's opinion on the subject matter of the debate - it was a personal attack against nutter's "blackness," and nothing more. secondly, i expect more from the congressman than personal attacks.

but most importantly, his remarks (which have not been the first during the course of this race to question nutter's blackness) are like the ones made by black children who are not studious that black children who are studious are trying to be white. i am not trying to say that fattah's remarks were directed towards nutter because of his achievement level or ambition- in fact, both gentlemen have accomplished careers and comfortable incomes. i'm saying that fattah was trying to achieve the same objective as the children who are bullies in my example - to assert that there is such a thing as some people being more black than other black people, and to ostracize the victim of the comments as confused, or gullible, or traitorous, but in any case - not acceptable to a standard of blackness that they fail to meet.

this mentality is killing us. it is stealing the inquisitiveness from our children. it is stifling their willingness to be open minded, to ask questions, and to try new things - leading to a young populace that truly believes en masse that this is black, and that is not. this in turn, allows the population to actually become what the stereotype dictates, bolstering its lie in the observant eyes of the next generation to follow, perpetuating the theft of our natural human desire to be curious and innovative. as bad as peer pressure can be at times, this mentality makes it exponentially worse - in this post-black-power-movement era, it can be extremely hurtful to one's pride to be accused of being white, especially when being black might be one of the few things you've learned to be proud of in your (often insular) neighborhood.

children need to know (shoot, some adults don't even seem to understand) that black people can differ in politics, or opinions, or interests, or dreams without threatening that which makes us us. we have been doing it for years: marian anderson sang opera instead of blues. arthur ashe played tennis instead of football. martin luther king was an intellectual author as well as a baptist minister. matthew henson explored the north pole. jimi hendrix changed the way we see guitar forever - after rock n roll was associated with white people. we claim these trailblazers now, but i wonder if during their journeys they encountered folks who challenged them, "what you wanna go and do that for? that's not for colored people."

why should we question the blackness of people who are willing to have their own opinions, whether or not we disagree with them, or who are willing to pursue their own dreams, whether or not we understand them? we cannot demand the opportunity to represent diversity in this country on the one hand, and with the other rebuke those within our ranks who dare to be different. what example do congressman fattah's remarks set for the children of this city?

(for the record, i think he only said it because he is specially pandering to people with this ignorant mentality, since he's not as high in the polls as he thinks he should be.)