On the evening of November 5th in Brooklyn, you would have thought
that Juneteenth and the Fourth of July had occurred. Cars were
honking bars were full, White Folks, Black Folks and Asian folks
were happy that their candidate won. D-boys that I had never seen
on my block, who hustle behind closed doors had their big red cups
out. They were elated that a Black president had been elected.
I felt a little bit different, as I spent the evening reading Paula Giddings
phenomenal book "When and Where I Enter."
Tracey Rose told me that, in Bed-Stuy a young Black man told her that he
felt that he could do anything. She also mentioned how older Black
women were reaching out to her and simply being more expressive
and emotionally available. I didn't think of anything of it at the time
because I connect with people all the time when I am out and about.
I make it a point to.
However, when I thought of others, instead of focusing on myself,
I realized how important the collective mood can be when we are
focusing on the positive or for that matter, on the negative.
I have been reluctant to write about Obama's election largely because
I haven't wanted to steal anyone's joy.
However I realize that, as a writer and thinker, I am not doing anyone
any good but censoring myself.
The point that I am trying to get at is that I am skeptical about
"The Change" and I am more concerned about "The Power."
When I mention this to friends and colleagues, the responses range
from disagreement, to cynicism, to understanding.
I get the feeling that people, some middle class Black folks that I know
are more interested in doing some good, you know Wu Tang is for
the kids and all, but ultimatly they want to get closer to "The Power"
I am not so concerned with President Obama's ability to govern, as I think
he will be as clear thinking leader of the free world in as much as we have
had previous leaders of the free world.
My issue is with our unwillingness to ask the hard questions of ourselves,
about the Economy, about Healthcare, about Education and how we
treat every day human beings based on "The Power" and "The Change."
I mean, look at the consumption spurred by the campaign. We really
appear to be a people who think that we can buy our way to social justice. I wonder
if the discipline that is required to be the change and to analyze "The Power"
is within us. The next time you read the news paper and you see an article
on the economy, ask yourself whose interests are being served by
whatever topic is being discussed, ask yourself why its being discussed
at all. This is the way that I go about trying to analyze "The Power."
Nationalizing Citibank? Bernie Maddoff is on house arrest?
I sometimes get the sense that in our desire to get rich or die trying we
are willing to overlook the way in which power works in our society
because of our sincerest hope that we may one day benefit from it.
Power is the ability to right a wrong and make yourself whole
after you have suffered a setback. Power is the ability to find another job
after you have been laid off. Power is the ability appeal and win a
dismissal from your University, Power is the ability to make the same
amount of money that your colleague of a different gender or race
earns for the same job, Power is the ability to tell the police that
they WILL NOT search you on your own block.
Power is the ability for a Black mother to keep her son from
being put in Special Ed in the first grade.
On November 5th, as I sat reading "When and Where I Enter", I was
reminded of several things, one was the history of the law
as it pertains to human beings and the other Shirly Chisholm's campaign
and the Black male response to her campaign.
In 1972, Chisholm became the first major-party black candidate for President
of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic
"When and Where I Enter" sets forth the argument that the first
African Americans who arrived here were indentured servants,
not chattel slaves. Meaning that that their enslavement was NOT
based on their race. It was purely based on labor needs.
It wasn't until the slave owners and the law makers decided that
they needed to make as much as possible from the labor of Black
and white indentured servants that that race based
slavery arose. The laws changed to reflect this need. Think
about it, in a Patriarchal society, the identity of the child
is tied to his or her father. This is why we take on the fathers
last name, for heir reasons. The law changed so that the mothers
status dictacted the status of the child. An Enslaved mother and a Free
or Enslave father created an enslaved child. This is the way that
the law changed to reflect the new needs.
White women were sold into slavery as well for having sexual
relations, or having children with Black men. It's deep.
With regard to Chisholm, Black male politicians responded
to her decision to run for for president with cynicism and benign
hatred. Giddings writes,
Chisolm's candidacy would suffer even more at the hands of
Black leaders, who by the early seventies were almost exclusively
men. Black politicos explored several options in 1972. On was to run
favorite sons in several states; another was to throw support behind
McGovern; and a third to support a single Black candidate. None, however,
it seemed to include Shirley Chisholm. She became vividly aware of this
after hearing the results of a Black strategy meeting that took place
outside of Chicago which included Julian Bond, Imamu Amiri Baraka,
Percy Sutton, Richard Hatcher, Jesse Jackson, Roy Innis, Willie Brown,
Basil Patterson and Clarence Mitchell III.
What was really bothering the Black males at the meeting was...more directly
hinted at by a Washington Post reporter (anonymously): "In this first serious
effort of Blacks for high politcal office, it would be better if it were a man."
"From the beginning....her campaign was plagued- by charges that
she was captive of the women's movement. In 1972 association with an
organization like NOW was enough to dampen the kind of Black grass
roots enthusiasm needed to transcend the other obstacles in her campaign."
In Black Macho and the Myth of the Super Woman, Michelle Wallace
goes on to describe the ways in which Black male politicians viewed
Shirley Chisolms presidential candidacy in 1972. Wallace writes,
Around the time that Shirley Chisholm was running for President in 1972,That Aunt Ester and Chisholm have a resemblance isn't
Redd Foxx....made a joke about her. He said that he would prefer Raquel
Welch to Shirley Chisholm any day. The joke was widely publicized in the
Black community, and thought quite funny. There was something about
it that made black men pay attention to it and savor it.
Every since then it really baffled me to hear black men say that
black women had no time for feminism because being black came first.
For them, when it came to Shirley Chisholm, being black no longer came first
at all. It turned out what they really meant all along was that the black man
came before the black woman. And not only did he come before her, he came before her to her own detriment. The proof is that, as Shirley Chisholm
announced her intention to run, black men pulled out their big guns and aimed
them at her. They made every attempt to humiliate her, not only as a politcal
being but also as a sexual being.
lost on me. The fact that Red Foxx both insulted
Aunt Ester on the regular and made a joke about Chisholm as
well isn't lost on me either.
That being said, given the way Black male politicians responded
to Chisholm, and the history of how the laws have been used to structure
society to ensure that labor needs have been met and to keep those who have
The Power with The Power, I wasn't surprised by the passage of Prop 8.
If a country can simultaneously enslave millions of African people, while
it stages a fight against it's own oppression (ie. The American Revolution),
then why was it so inconceivable that Californians could vote against gay
marriage and for a Black president?
The Change or The Power?