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.
I honor you for choosing to share these painful moments. Your willingness to keep teaching, in the face of such hostility, is a huge source of courage to me. May you always be protected from violence.
Of course you could have replied "Hope you have fun putting that n***** (nutter) into office."
Shame you wasted your chai, but he won't forget your action.
Sometimes we have to react fully, completely. The guilt that comes later is a measure of our humanity.
Buy another chai, and with each sip, smile wide- today was a great day!
I have no words.
Well done on throwing the venti chai. It is the best thing to do with such a foul bevarage. Blech. :)
Also, I love that you were rocking a Depeche Mode tshirt.
Thanks so much for such a generous response--and for all of you who emailed me SBUX gift cards, you didn't have to do it, but thank you for the gesture.
That guy and his ilk are a big reason I moved away from the Los Feliz/Silverlake area of Los Angeles, sorry to say. I never posted about it but I could tell you some heartbreaking stories of how the hipster white family across the street was the popular house on the block for all the kids to play at...except my sweet little brown baby. Just typing that made a hot flush rise up over my face and brought me back! Girl, someday we need to sit down for a cup of chai together and vent!
I ask myself that, too. We need laws because they're just but according to the laws on the books racism is illegal. Yet we know so many hearts have not changed. I'm reminded of a story my mom once told me of KKK folks showing up for Race Unity Day. Short version is that there was nothing anyone could say to change what they believed. You have to start with the folks who are willing and then hope there's a ripple effect. And yes, may I be protected from violence.
It's likely that unless something happens to profoundly shift his POV, he'll dig in his heels more. I wish I knew what that something was.
First of all, best online handle ever. Second of all, thanks for the offer and thanks for going out and vote. That's what REALLY matters.
Thanks so much for the sentiments.
Yes, it was an incredible day. Very kind of you to say--I haven't bought another chai yet--I might wait till Saturday when I can really enjoy it.
Oh yes. I'd say the only difference between here and Chicago is that I don't get harassed by cops as much here--which is ironic given that back home LA has that rep as being worse.
Seriously, all the struggles and hatred from the British and everyone else--all the name calling and prejudice Irish folks have endured, he should really know better. Bill's embarrassing.
That's my prayer, too. I so appreciate your thoughtful words. I am with you--when I hear people starting with their racial microagressions, I always figure that when they're in a less diverse and more private setting theu let their feelings fly. Stay strong--we can make change--I can feel it.
ALWAYS rocking a DM shirt, even if it was, ahem, one of the bootleg ones from the last tour. The bootleg shirts were actually nicer than the legit ones!
You are very kind to say so. Thanks.
Methinks he's an idiot who happens to be also be racist. Sadly enough.
And oh, you seen to have attracted a troll ('anonymous').
My father marched with the black panthers and brown panthers for civil rights, in L.A. in the sixties. In our secular household, my father made sure we understood Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was a visionary and a national leader, to be emulated and admired. I am not trying to compare any of my experiences to what you or your parents might have gone through, but to us MLK was more important than an elected official because he rose to prominence, not through financial backing of lobbyists or a political parties backing, but with his words. He came from the people. Black or white he encouraged Americans to stand, to march for civil rights. These civil rights make a difference for us all.
Flash forward to 2012, the day I voted for Obama, for the second time. I'm wearing my 'I voted' sticker and am in a late night line at a supermarket. A man in line behind me is cheerful and boisterous, I turn to look at the celebratory commotion, he looks at me and states, 'Don't worry, I'm black, but I'm not going to hurt you.' He then looks at my sticker and says, 'Too bad we won, right.' Insinuating that I voted for Romney. I just moved along. I am not angry. It didn't make me wish I could change my vote. I didn't need to show him the Obama sticker I got for my contribution to his campaign, but it did hurt.
I'm sharing this because I want you to know, just 'cause one ass-wipe taunts you with racism, don't respond in like. Instead of throwing on a shirt that further segregates us, that allows us to be defined by such hatred. He was not worth your coffee. Instead look for the people that are standing with you, regardless of our skin color. These racists want us to feel as if we're too different to ever get along, but we know, without a doubt, that's not true. We are deeper than the color of our skin. We might never change the racists mind, but there's enough of us here that are all ready making a difference, that are part of the change, that we could look at those fools and even have a little empathy because they don't have any idea of the 'wonderful' that they are missing. It is our actions that show the world who we are. Don't be dragged down to their narrow vision of life.
They're a small ship sinking in a sea of diversity. They're going to scream loud as they go down because, they unfortunately don't realize that they don't have to drown, they could swim with us.
I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character - MLK.