Hey Guy Who Yelled, 'Hope You Have Fun Putting That N***** Back Into Office' at Me
That's what a white man yelled at me in a grocery store parking lot this morning as he drove past me. I snapped and threw the venti chai I'd just bought at the Starbucks in the store at his car. Not the most compassionate or charming thing I've ever done but it was the last straw.
We've had four years of folks claiming that Obama's 2008 election meant we were in an era of postracial nirvana, all while nonstop racial dog whistles--from the birthers and Donald Trump, to the insinuations about Obama's mother being a whore who sleeps with black men across the globe, to Obama only becoming head of the Harvard Law Review because of affirmative action--became the norm.
Four years of pent up anger flew towards that man's car with that cup. He hit the gas pedal and sped away--my cup missed his car by inches.
I went home, took off my Depeche Mode t-shirt, dug out my Black is Beautiful t-shirt that I bought at the Studio Museum of Harlem, and headed to the polls.
I cried while I was in the voting booth, thinking of all my black ancestors who were called that word and couldn't do a damn thing about it. As much as it hurt to have that said to me, I thanked God that I could do something about it: I voted.
Today Bill O'Reilly got on FOX and stoked racial fear by telling viewers, "The white establishment is now the minority," and "it's not a traditional America anymore."
And in case viewers didn't quake in fear, O'Reilly made his dog whistle louder and scarier: "And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff," he said. "You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama's way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?"
Well, Mr. O'Reilly, you're right: I do want something since, as President Obama said tonight in his acceptance speech, ""The role of citizen does not end with your vote."
I want Americans to truly embrace citizenship so we can ensure the peace and prosperity of this nation--it's pretty clear that we need racial healing to get there and it's going take all of us doing our part.
In my faith there's a book called The Advent of Divine Justice and there's a passage in it that has shaped my world view on what we need to do to achieve racial unity in America more than anything else.
White folks, it says, must "abandon once for all their usually inherent and at times subconscious sense of superiority, to correct their tendency towards revealing a patronizing attitude towards the members of the other race, to persuade them through their intimate, spontaneous and informal association with them of the genuineness of their friendship and the sincerity of their intentions, and to master their impatience of any lack of responsiveness on the part of a people who have received, for so long a period, such grievous and slow-healing wounds."
And black folks have an equal responsibility to "show by every means in their power the warmth of their response, their readiness to forget the past, and their ability to wipe out every trace of suspicion that may still linger in their hearts and minds."
So no, not hurling racial slurs out car windows and not throwing chai at anyone, either. Clearly, I can do better, too.
You know what else I want? I want President Obama to be able to be black.
In his excellent essay, Fear of a Black President, Ta-Nehisi Coates quoted pollster Cornell Belcher as telling Gwen Ifill back in 2008, "The thing is, a black man can't be president in America, given the racial aversion and history that’s still out there. However, an extraordinary, gifted, and talented young man who happens to be black can be president."
As Coates wrote, "His is the perfect statement of the Obama era, a time marked by a revolution that must never announce itself, by a democracy that must never acknowledge the weight of race, even while being shaped by it. Barack Obama governs a nation enlightened enough to send an African American to the White House, but not enlightened enough to accept a black man as its president."
Can we accept a black man as the President of the United States of America? Can we make the commitment to work on the racism in our hearts so we can truly move forward? We don't need four more years of the exhausting, race-based poison that's infected this nation, that's for sure.
As someone who grew up with a black mother and white father--who've been married over 40 years--I know first hand how beautiful racial unity really is. I want that for all of us. C'mon, friends, let's do better.