In this episode Kwasi brings back Dutty Bookman to discuss the movement he has helped dub as the Reggae Revival after a panel at SXSW 2027. He also speaks to Koro Fyah of the Bevel Rock camp about his ABC’s at SXSW as well. Bomani interviews the founder of the Uganda’s Bavubuka Foundation, Babaluku, and their chief archivist Gilbert Daniels about Hip-Hop in Uganda and the Lugaflow movement. Bomani and Kwasi also discuss spirituality in independent music, and how the community discusses things like sin. A must listen!
The profile of national politics has changed dramatically over the past 8 months. These changing times has added a certain “tint” to politics, a brand new “hue” if you will. Okay, enough beating around the bush, where did all these colored people come from? There was a time that Representatives Harold Ford, JC Watts and Jesse Jackson represented the height of electoral politics for black people and the future of the race politically. There was also a light smattering of Latinos and other minority on the national political scene, most notably Richardson. Let’s not mention, Powell, Gonzalez and Condoleezza Rice. Though they had high office, neither were politicians, just bureaucrats and soldiers put in a highly politicized public service role. But now, in 2009, people of color have become the representative face of both parties! With “That One” Barack Obama and MC Michael Steele, not to mention Bobby Jindal, men of color publicly front both parties. How did we get here, and what does that mean for politics over the next 4 years?
First of all, let’s look at the two completely different things the brown person on the Democratic Party and the brown people on the Republican Party represent. Barack Obama was not anointed by his party, but ambushed his party with some fortuitous moments in which he made outstanding, and ground breaking speeches. He has a knack for playing a line right down the middle, when it comes to democratic politics, while offering a figurative and literal fresh face to politics. His stance on some real basic ideas about conversation, teamwork, and common courtesy seemed revolutionary after George W. Bush. No one saw him coming. The message of change, and the idea that America was ready for a black President was a shock to absolutely everyone until after the Iowa caucuses. Only then did his political party make a shift and start backing him wholeheartedly.
Barack was the physical manifestation of the idea that Democrats were diametrically opposed to everything George W. Bush had done in the White House. He was well spoken, a great listener, committed to surrounding himself with divergent viewpoints, and outspoken about the need to talk to allies as well as friends abroad. Barack Obama, through his own political positioning and uncanny timing, became the face of a new type of politics. No face says change better than one that is different from the previous 43 men who’ve held that job in history.
On top of that, for the first time in history his blackness was seen as a plus. To the millions of college students who had voted for him, and to the civil rights generation voters from all races, he was a culmination of where this country sees itself going. He was the answer to the question of whether or not America was a country of racists, especially since the Iraq war seemed to suggest that the U.S. couldn’t tell one brown person from another. Even the way he spoke and, dare I say it, his swagger, was distinctly black. He had what linguist and author John McWhorter calls “blacksense”, a way of speaking that’s distinctly African American yet comforting to white people (i.e. Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones). White people definitely had some, “look at me, ain’t I progressive” moments in the days leading up to the election and inauguration. They key element though, was that this was brought about from the grassroots by the actual man who won the election.
On the contrast, Michael Steele’s rise to leadership in the Republican Party has taken an almost exact opposite route. The Republican Party has recognized that they need to change directions, but it seems they are only interested in changing appearances. The main draw with Michael Steele is that he proves that the same old ideas are relevant in a post-racial, hip-hop, facebook and twitter type of world. They have not changed any basic position on taxes, foreign policy, sexual health and reproduction, welfare, gun control, or any other topic that has been part of the Republican platform for 50 years. Republicans have instead insisted that these old concepts are timeless, so much so that they can let the people of color promote them. This is a very blatant and insulting type of re-branding where the product has not changed a bit.
It’s actually disappointing, but not surprising, that the Republican Party would be so obviously race baiting with their public representation. Michael Steele has no experience winning anything of consequence politically outside of Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. His recent newspaper interview where he claimed he was going to give the Republican Party a hip-hop overhaul was like watching your uncle do the ‘running man” at the family reunion. On top of that I was personally embarrassed at how he was undressed by Rush Limbaugh and subsequently apologized. After looking back at what he said to D.L. Hughley he realized his words didn’t accurately reflect his feelings. Steele, that was soooo not hip-hop. You loose 25 hip-hop cool points, which brings you to a grand total of –65.
Jindal is undoubtedly a skilled politician; you must be to become a non-white governor in a southern state like Louisiana. He is also, obviously and unfortunately, not the greatest orator or a genuine street fighter, as his painful response to Obama’s address proved the other day. Both the style and the substance of his droning speech have proved to be lacking. Even before we found out that his horribly boring and ridiculously ill-thought-of story about him standing shoulder to shoulder with a local sheriff to fight big government in a time of crisis wasn’t true, we wondered about the political wisdom of using a Republican failure as an example of why Republicans should be given federal power again. I could imagine a room full of Republican power brokers, with single malt scotches and cigars, waiting to pat each other on the back. Their young acolyte Jindal would wow the masses and show that the G.O.P. has down south mixed with Indian flavor. I would have paid to see their real time reaction to his lackluster speech. It has not been said enough; that you shouldn’t trust a party who believes that Federal government can only fail to run the Federal Government. This gives them the ability to fail miserably and blame the institution, instead of themselves for running it. Jindal proved that no matter what color is on the banner of the Republican Party, their concepts have an extreme disconnect with reality. No paint job will make this jalopy run. No hired maniacs or mercenaries like Alan Keyes will make the world see them differently. It took Obama months of real difference and nuance in his stance as a Democrat to penetrate that party, and until the Republicans can find their own, their party will still lack any color.
The guys in this week’s Barbershop discuss a recent cartoon published by The New York Post, which many say depicts Obama as a chimpanzee shot dead by police (the paper has since offered an apology). Also, Illinois Sen. Roland Burris is back in the hot seat and baseball star Alexander “A-Rod” Rodriguez explains what he describes as a “stupid” decision to experiment with steroids.
Hear views from blogger Jimi Izrael, artist Bomani Armah, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar and syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette.
To listen to the episode click here.
This year’s MLK day at the Washington National Cathedral was attended by over 2,500 people from around the country. The excitement over the Inauguration the following day (and Time Magazine highlighting this event and your boy as the place and people to see) ballooned the normally large crowd. We were all treated to performances by Omekongo Dibinga, 2Deep, QuiQue Avilez, The African Heritage Drummers and Dancers, Daniel D., and the Urban Nation Youth Choir. Click on the photo to see the video!
President Barack Obama
The White House
Dear Mr. President. First let me tell you how incredibly proud and inspired I am by your ascension to the Presidency. As the father of two African American boys with “funny foreign names”, your tenure is already a success in my eyes. When I tell Olu Femi & Dela Eden that they can be anything they want, even President of the United States, everyone can nod in agreement now, instead of saying patronizingly “awwww that is so cute”. Your presidency has not even begun, but I am writing to volunteer for your 2012 campaign, under the condition that you commit to sending your daughters to DCPS for high school!
That’s right, one of the fine public schools in the District of Columbia, like Eastern, Wilson, or Ballou. I could request a public school bail-out, lord knows that would be a much wiser and more beneficial investment than many of the failing businesses that have held their hands out on Capital Hill. But as important as an infusion of money to attract talented teachers and update 60 year old buildings would be, you sending your child to Roosevelt or Spingarn would signal a symbolic and literal togetherness this city and public schools nation wide would take to heart.
I’ve approached my friends and colleagues with the idea of sending an Obama girl to Banneker, Dunbar or McKinley for the last two months, and I must admit most of them have been mortified. Their concerns have included whether or not DCPS could challenge her academically, whether it would be a secure environment for the first daughter, and whether the culture of student life at any DCPS would be welcoming for such a privileged and famous child.
First, either of your daughters would be a perfect DCPS student. As everyone knows, parental involvement is more important than any teacher or facility. Having two stay at home parents (Michelle and her grandmother) there will always be an adult to augment whatever education she is receiving at school. She will have wise women to listen to questions and concerns in the quickly evolving life of a teenager. It is too much to ask for you to turn your life into more of a reality show than it is, but just knowing that 2 generations of family are working as a cohesive unit to guide their child through public school would be an outstanding example to the other millions of families experiencing the same reality.
Will a DCPS school be safe for an Obama girl? First of all, the idea that DCPS schools are breeding grounds for drugs and violence is COMPLETELY UNTRUE. Yes, like most inner city schools, our high schools deal with their fair share of delinquencies, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, fights etc. But, as I’m sure you know, the average DC student is unfairly lumped into a caricature of inner city high schools. The vast majority of our students at schools like Phelps and Woodson want the same thing their private school peers want, a safe state of the art environment to discover themselves as individuals, and to develop as a positive contributors to their community. Secondly, I’ve seen the secret service in action, and the cliques and crews that exist in DCPS schools are no match.
Even if the stereotypes of DCPS were a true, you have exhibited the ability to mobilize people unlike anyone since Dr. Martin Luther King. Can you imagine the ripple affect you would cause when you announce that you are sending your daughter to a public school? The level of parent and community involvement at all of our schools would increase exponentially. The fast revamping of our school systems by Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee would have an even greater sense of urgency, along with the support of a whole nation cheering on their success.
Washington DC is the seat of national politics that so badly needs changing. Washington DC should be the example of American society, shining a light to the rest of the country and the world. Washington DC is the home of thousands of African American fathers whom you have personally challenged to step up to their responsibility. Who better to lead the nation into a new era of public responsibility than the world’s most famous community organizer? Imagine a city where every citizen considers the school in their neighborhood as MY SCHOOL. It does not matter if I have a child in the local school; I take pride in the upkeep of the school building. I stop 13 year olds who are walking the street at noon and demand that they go to school. I attend and cheer at honor roll assemblies the way I do Friday night football. You, Mr. Obama, could lead that kind of community adoption of the public schools. Never before have I seen so many people claim someone as “My President”. Imagine if that energy was focused on Duke Ellington, Roosevelt, or the School Without Walls.
Sending your daughter to a DC public high school, like Cardozo, Anacostia or Coolidge, will be an important symbolic and practical step to fulfilling Dr. King’s last mission before his assassination, the elimination of poverty through economic equality. I meet students every day who over achieve at sub-par schools. I’ve taught poetry classes in December in classrooms with no heat, and locks on the library door because the school couldn’t afford a librarian. I wonder how much higher their academic ceiling would be with properly equipped science labs, motivated and positive peers, and a dynamic and involved community.
As of this year, your eldest child is 4 years away from attending high school, giving you and I 4 years to get OUR school system, and OUR cities attitude towards the education of OUR children, on point. In reality, everyone’s trepidation about an Obama girl at DCPS really just exposes an ugly truth. The idea that public schools aren’t good enough for America’s new darlings only means that public schools are not good enough for any student. I don’t believe this. I do believe that we must change both perception and the reality of public education so that when we say “Our Children Are the Future”, it is not a tired cliché.
In the end, I don’t expect for you to accept less for your daughter to make a social and political statement. I’m asking you to demand more from DCPS as a social and political statement. I am personally up for the challenge and I guarantee that the city will follow your lead. Yes We Can!
I consider myself one of thousands of hip-hop era leaders who are not completely trusted by the civil rights generation. We see their black and white news clips and are awed by their actions that have gotten us to this point. We also cringe when they bring late 60’s sensibilities to a new area of civil rights and politics, waiting for Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly to use their latest dated statements to berate all African Americans.
Such a moment happened in the political cauldron of Chicago this week when Bobby Rush took the dais at Governor Blagojevich’s appointment of Roland Burris to the vacant Illinois Senate seat. “We need to have not just one African-American in the U.S. Senate. We need to have many African-Americans in the U.S. Senate. So I applaud the governor for his decision.” This is the first of two quotes that made me cringe. This is a text book example of conflating two issues, the need for more African American representation and the political mess that is Governor Blagojevich’s pay to play scandal. It is hard for me to fathom why the congressman would make this statement, but I’ve tried my hardest to do just that.
Rep Rush made a completely legitimate point about the absence of African Americans in the countries most important governing body. What I don’t understand is the timing. The US just elected the first black president, and the appointment he is defending was made by a publicly perceived crook. He is a harsh critic of Blagojevich and as a seasoned politician would have to see that he volunteered to play the race card. The only thing that makes sense to me is that his impromptu speech was a reflex reaction from a civil rights era leader, without completely taking in the circumstances he was dealing in. I like that explanation more than the race baiting, Jesse Jackson style, that Representative Rush seems to have gotten himself into. After researching on Bobby Rush, a lot of my preconceived stereotypes of him were justified. A quick wikipedia search lead me to some absolutely amazing accomplishments in a biography that starts making noise in the late sixties when he was heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement. A former army soldier, he was a member of SNCC and a founder of the Illinois Black Panther Party. While with the Black Panther Party he was integral in the free breakfast and free medical clinic that developed the nations first mass sickle cell disease testing program. Rush also joined a tremendous and epically outstanding fraternal organizations called Iota Phi Theta that I can personally vouch for. Our motto of “Building a Tradition and not Resting Upon One” has guided many of my life decisions, and a lot of my perspective of this story. All this being said, Rush is the guy I imagined myself being if I was alive during the civil rights era and black power movement. Even as a 62 year old cancer survivor, his instincts to stand for the downtrodden have not dulled. Representative Rush was one of a few congressmen to be arrested in a peaceful protest against the genocide in Darfur in 2004.
So when does the torch get passed? What if a man feels that the experience of years of running, are more important than the fresh legs and perspective of the young whipper snapper he’s passing it off to. Representative Bobby Rush is the only man to ever beat Barack Obama in a political campaign. He’s quoted as saying during their contest for his Ill House of Representative seat, “Barack Obama went to Harvard and became an educated fool. Barack is a person who read about the civil-rights protests and thinks he knows all about it.”
Many in Rush’s generation feel the same about the youngsters who, like myself, would never had taken the stage in the situation to applaud the appointment of Black man when the issue at hand is more about political transparency and the fight against corruption. To many leaders in his generation, this will always be the issue, no matter what historical event we are in the midst of. Frankly, leaders like Rush don’t have to stop fighting for racial equality, because the fight is not over. But the battle fields have changed, the strategies have to change with it. Like Barack so famously said about another civil rights/black power movement era leader in Chicago, “The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress had been made”.
The second statement by Rep Rush really caught everybody off guard. “…and I will ask you to not hang and lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer. Separate, if you will, the appointee from the appointed. Ronald Burris is worthy.” I’m extremely disappointed that Rush equated the national media, and the almost unanimous national political uprising against Governor Blagojevich to a hanging or lynching. He took this saga to a completely unnecessary melodramatic level. It’s not the move of someone who is seeing politics through the eyes 2008, more like ’88 or ’78.
Many Black Americans are still trying to take in the fact that Barack Obama has been elected this country’s first black president. It’s something people have said they didn’t think they’d witness in their lifetime. And because it sometimes seemed too much to hope for, the idea of a first black president has been a subject of humor among black comedians and others.
Read a list to the rest of this segment on comedy and President Elect Obama.
Like most 30 year old urban professionals, I am completely thrilled with this election season. I am awe struck by Barack Obama’s ability to navigate the shaky political landscape that has been set before him. Between the unnecessary or ill planned wars, economical travesties, the class warfare, and the never ending battles over the government’s role in legislating morality, there are so many tangents to get lost in. Barack seems to navigate them so effortlessly. What impresses me most about him is his ability to explain color in this country. Not the black, or the white, the brown, the blue or the red, but the all important and encompassing gray. Yes, the gray area in between the dead end corners our political parties, religious views and ethnic loyalties paint us into. When it’s all said and done, more and more Americans are comfortable stating, or finally fully understand, that most issues we deal with in this country come in ambiguous shades of gray.
It’s hard getting excited about gray. Technically, it’s not even a color, but a shade. It is drab and inconspicuous; you can’t slam your fist down and proclaim it. You instead have to shrug your shoulders, in acknowledgment of the complexity of our world. Most people in blue states, or blue cities swamped in a sea of red, are forced to deal with conflicting views and perspective of the world on a daily basis. Major metropolitan cities like here in D.C., where the flags of Ethiopia and El Salvador, and Kenya, and India, and Iraq, and South Korea swirl around to make a true American flag, we understand the concept of nuance. Where mosques, and synagogues, churches, cathedrals, temples and other places of worship are all crammed into a tiny space, we are forced to recognize the common good in our paths to spiritual enlightenment. Where one block takes you from poverty and violence to affluence and frivolity and we are forced to reconcile hard work with hard luck.
Here we understand the truth to be stable, simple and plain, but seen through the veil of every ones separate and fluid reality it can appear in a myriad of ways. We understand how religion conflicts with reason, but see how it bolsters our spirit where reason has not supplied answers. We understand the power of branding, of 30 second commercials, with slogans, mottos and tag lines, but realize that any real solution to a question is long and drawn out, with caveats and variables. We are accustomed to answers that cannot be boiled down to catch phrases or repetitive chants like “drill baby, drill”. Even though we want the sun to shine bright, we go outside looking for the shade. There is a comfortable median in gray.
We do not live in a world where we see circling “all of the above” as a lack of decisiveness. We understand that between conflicting views lies the truth. We don’t waste time arguing nature versus nurture, or big bang versus intelligent design, socialism versus capitalism, and good versus evil. We accept the fluidity of reality, not as some new age, eastern “yin yang” philosophy. We understand it to be reality. Obama answers questions carefully and measured. He leaves room for change, retraction, and addendum as the situation requires it. That might be what we admire about him as a politician more than anything, that he can be bring excitement, definition and energy, to gray.
Americans have seen what happens when their politicians paint with a broad brush. We’ve experienced what it’s like being racist xenophobes under the current administration. The inability to tell one Arab/Muslim/bad guy from the next allowed us to mistake Saddam Hussein for Osama bin Laden. The inability to see gray allowed us to miss the fact that nothing is more unsettling for a secular dictator than a religious zealot, no matter what your ethnicity or geographic commonality is, and therefore any alliance between them was ridiculous. I understood that, thousands who marched around the world before the Iraq war understood that, Barack understood that too.
Americans are tired of being treated like children. We are tired of our politicians thinking that we cannot understand the finite detail of world affairs. We understand that all of our friends and allies aren’t saints (Saudi Arabia, Israel etc) and we understand that our enemies are not the spawn of Satan (Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea). We understand that we make alliances of convenience, and that the civil rights violations and potential threats a country might bear against us are always weighed against their value as trade partners and strategic military allies.
Die hard republicans are exasperated because they believe that they haven’t yelled Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers and Tony Resco’s names loud enough. They don’t believe what is really happening, that Americans HAVE looked at Obama’s associations and have decided that we are tired of caricatures and unrealistic expectations. We understand the black church’s need to be a political and social force, and to remind it’s congregation of this countries past transgressions, so as to stay on guard for new ones. We also understand how a man can be overwhelmed by his position of ecumenical power and forget to speak with clarity and wisdom. We understand that it is possible to enter into a righteous cause with someone, who unbeknownst to us has, at one point, committed unrighteous acts. We understand that if you do enough business, with enough people, you will eventually do business with a criminal. We haven’t blindly turned away from Obama’s nefarious associations; we understand these associations as a gray reality of dealing with people. We understand that if you have never interacted with someone of questionable character or intentions that it is more of a reflection of you not expanding your circle, than some remarkable “spidey sense” to be able to stay away from evil.
That is why we are not encouraged by McCain’s bold claims that he can capture Bin Laden, but are instead fearful of that level of arrogance and certainty. That’s why we are not swayed by McCain’s cries of Obama being a socialist, because we understand that capitalism unchecked is cannibalistic and must be tempered by human hands that put people above profit. That is why, at the last debate, we stood in awe, as Obama offered an olive branch of working together to reduce unwanted pregnancies instead of bickering over the issue of abortion. More than any other argument, this one needed to be painted gray, a color McCain refuses to see, because his base responds only to black and white, red and blue, good versus evil.
There is a large but shrinking violet part of the country that is comforted by absolutes. They hear, speak and see no evil when it comes to God and country. They sleep easier knowing that communists and Muslims are bad guys and that the poor slacked their way into homelessness. Their religious leaders fail them, the beloved free market turns on them, and their military might fails to protect them, yet they cannot see that any absolute in this life is destined to disappoint. The rest of us see the absence of black or white, and long for a leader who brings us together, to explain the gray.
Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin has re-ignited the debate on what’s best for the family: moms who stay at home, or moms who work? This week’s Mocha Moms Jolene Ivey, Asra Nomani and “Mommy Wars” author Leslie Morgan Steiner are joined by special guest Dad, Bomani Armah to discuss Palin and the public response to her candidacy.
To hear this discussion click here.
Imagine for a second, a 50 year old adult with their eyes squinted shut, their pointer fingers jammed in their ears, and their whole upper body swiveling like a water sprinkler yelling “La La La La La!” at the top of their longs. That is the personification of the abstinence only program many socially conscious organizations are hauling around as dead weight, after being lured by the carrot of federal funding. On any given week day you will see 12 years olds being taught a perfectly valid social value, without being give any of the necessary tools to practice it.
Abstinence only doesn’t work because of a basic credibility problem. Yes, we want our young people to wait to have sex until they are at least mature enough to understand the ramifications of their decision, if not until they are married. But abstinence only operates in a vacuum, where your children will never hear about condoms, contraceptives, abortions or same sex relationships. That reality doesn’t exist. Your child will listen and take to heart everything you tell them about sex and sexuality, applying it to their daily lives, until they are exposed to something else that you didn’t prepare them for. At that moment everything you taught them about sex comes into question.
“If mom didn’t tell me about condoms, what else did she not tell me about?”
This will serve to do the exact opposite of what you intended, pushing your child to experiment on its own, instead of trusting your judgment about sex. How can you blame them? Your advice has proven to be partial at best, and a lie at worst.
Now, at a crucial time in our countries history, the epidemic of teen pregnancy and the policy makers who decide how we combat it has come together to form a perfect storm. And we have been forbidden to talk about it. Not only are we closing our eyes and acting as if we not acknowledging our children’s sexuality will make the problem go away. We must also pretend that we don’t notice that a conservative republican, who believes in abstinence only education, has a daughter who is pregnant at 17. We are not allowed to ask her what her conversations about life and sexuality are like with her children. We cannot ask her to explain how poor, single parent households are suppose to turn the tide of teen pregnancy when the Palin’s, with an obviously strong and cohesive family unit, cannot seem to get it right.
Please don’t misunderstand my position. I too feel like attacks on the Palin family are distasteful and crass. I have no urge to rub this in their face, call them bad parents, or question their core beliefs and values. I am, however, determined to make this a national conversation about how to protect our future through proactive understanding and education about our countries sexuality. As I’m sure Governor Palin’s eldest son will be the new mascot for why we must get it right in Iraq, her infant son will be the poster child for special needs children, her daughter’s situation should be a spring board to a much needed conversation on comprehensive sexual education.
I’ve worked as a counselor and then as a consultant for a non-profit organization federally funded to teach abstinence only classes in the Washington DC public school systems. My main task eventually evolved into making the abstinence curriculum “hip-hop friendly”. I incorporated popular music videos and radio hits into the curriculum. Those extremely overt songs about promiscuous sex that your pastor rails against, we spend 3 to 4 one hour sessions dissecting in detail. It’s amazing how much 12 years understand, or at least retain, about sex from popular media, their peers and the adults around them. One of the first exercises I would do when I begin as a counselor was to ask the students to act like their were no adults in the room and give me all the slang terms for sex and genitalia they could think of. On top of the typical old sexual jargon of violence and construction terms (bang, screw, nail, smash, hit) their where some new ones (cut) some regionally specific ones (bop) and one that I only thought would creep into the minds of those brave enough to read “savage love” on a weekly basis. I am amazed how few adults know what it means, but without fail every classroom of 7th graders yelled out “tea bagging” within the top 5 responses when asked to give me slang words on sex.
Even the most protected child has to acknowledge his or her parent’s naivety about modern sexuality because of all the information blatantly omitted from their sex talks. And while this might not lead directly to loose girls and gigolo boys, it is a seed that can grow given the wrong set of circumstances and friends. This is one of few subjects, if broached early and delicately enough, that you will have your child’s undivided attention. Their natural curiosity about their body and the complete lack of concrete information about the amazing transformation they are going through makes them wide open to suggestions at the ripe old of 10 to 12 years old.
Sex is not a private matter, it is an urgent matter of public safety! For the sake of our society’s future we need to agree upon some basics facts about sex and sexuality. Your values are your own, and should be passed from parent to child in ways that you are culturally comfortable. But a shared reality is that this is a world of penises and vaginas that are constantly colliding, sharing microbes and making more penises and vaginas. This affects public health, the economy, psychological and emotional health. This reality is older and will last longer than any language that is taught in school, whether it’s Latin or html. When your 11 year old daughter hears the term “getting some head” for the first time, it would be a lot more empowering for her to be able to say “my father explained what that was, and why I shouldn’t do it, you’ve got it all wrong” instead of “what does that mean?”.
And when we are given a chance to discuss this reality publicly we cannot pass up on the chance. We can be tasteful, we can be respectful and scientific. We cannot do the age old “hear no evil, see no evil” policy that has gotten us to this point. Too many lives are at stake.
Poet and satirist Bomani Armah talks about his Washington Post op-ed, “Okay, Barack. Now Show ‘Em Your White Side.”
Obama is “black enough,” Armah writes. “We need to start stressing the idea that his universal appeal is partly due to his being white, like all the presidents before him.”
Check out the full interview here.
“That’s why I chose you. See . . . you one a ‘dem!!”
– Samuel L. Jackson in “A Time to Kill”
So the hubbub has finally subsided. The King of Black People (Jesse Jackson) and the Prime Minister (Al Sharpton) have officially knighted Senator Obama as black enough. Of course it took a gang of white people in Iowa voting for him before anyone felt comfortable anointing him, but it happened none the less. I personally take credit for Obama solidifying the black vote because every time someone asked me that asinine “is he black enough” question, I would quip “what do you expect the first black president to be? A dashiki wearing, afro with a black fist pick having ex-black panther?”
Since that question seems to be settled, it’s time for Barack to switch gears. Okay, maybe not Barack himself, he does a good job of appearing to be above the political and racial fray. But his supporters need to start pushing the idea of how white he is. Yes, that’s right; Barack Obama is as white as he is black. The one drop rule is not a genetic law or a social fact; it is a construct of this countries racist imagination. For Christ sake, he’s distant cousins with Dick Cheney. We need to start stressing the idea that his universal appeal is partly due to him being white, like all the presidents before him.
“But Bomani, we need to appeal to the historic significance of him being black, or try to make him non-racial!”
Nothing is further from the truth. In all honesty, the more I watch him talk and interact with people, the more I’m convinced that he is a “soul brother”. He walks with a rhythm, slaps skin when he shakes hands with even the most white-bread politician, and speaks in a cadence that would make Rudy Ray Moore proud. Even though these attributes are part of the reason he has garnered support in the important blocks of voters like African Americans, liberals, anti-war activists, and the highly educated, it will also serve to galvanize a voting block that hasn’t had to come together in the history of our country. That is the all important “Aw Hell No!” voting block.
That’s right; the “Aw Hell No!” political block in our society has lain dormant for 200 years, waiting for a moment to flex its political muscle. Don’t forget that this country is over well over 60% white and well under half of the population votes. That means there are a lot of white people who could care less about the political process. They believe that national politics are really out of their reach and that it’s not worth taking off work to participate. As long as the Federal government stays within some superficial norms, they aren’t worried about who does what in November. That’s until a black man (and to be honest a, woman) had a chance to be president. This attack on the laws of the universe is destined to cause a spike in once apathetic voters.
This is the part of the editorial where I resist the temptation to stereotype all the members of the “Aw Hell No” voting block as backwoods, tobacco chewing, and cousin screwing hicks. That would be too easy and probably in accurate. This group has young and old members, in the rural areas and urban communities. “A.H.N.” members are comfortable in their existence and just aren’t ready for such a dramatic change. Most surprisingly, some members of this block have spoken glowingly of Senator Obama, maybe even attended his rallies. They won’t realize they are members of this group until the curtain is closed behind them in the voting booth.
For this reason, Barrack’s white heritage needs to be played up as much as possible. He needs to start posing with his mother’s family a lot more, not the United Nations crew of brothers and cousins he’s normally seen running with. Staffers need to start snapping as many pictures as possible of him putting mayonnaise on his sandwiches and shaking hands straight up and down (no more low fives that evolve into a shake with that pat on the back). He should also be banned from speaking at any kind of Baptist church, just churches that have only a pipe organ as an instrument and sing their songs solemnly and straight from a hymnal. Barrack should be given diction lessons so he can stop cutting of his y’s (like “li-ber-teh” and “e-kwa-li-teh”). And for heavens sake, when he’s campaigning this summer, avoid outdoor rallies!! We can’t afford him getting any darker. (Is there some cute, anglo sounding nick name that we can use as short for Barrack? I’m open to suggestions.)
“But Bomani, playing into racial stereotypes has to be counter productive! And having him fake anything takes away from the realness that gives him such broad appeal!”
Look, after he wins the presidential election I will personal show up on Pennsylvania Ave during his inauguration procession to the White House, wearing red, black and green and screaming “Barrack, Bomaye!!”. Until them I am not taking any more chances acknowledging him as a black man. If you want him to win the election I suggest you do the same.