Cross-posted at Operation Reach B.L.A.C.K.

Following up on my past article, “Oh, the Possibilities . . . Obama and Black Men,” I maintain that one of the greatest impacts Obama’s election will have is, at a minimum, the beginning of a redefinition of “masculinity” in America. We are talking about the juxtaposition of “power” with black skin. . . we are talking about the juxtaposition of authority with black skin.

And some people just can’t handle that fact. The following op-ed gets to the point:

There are many Americans for whom the image of a well-educated, articulate, African-American man running the country simply does not fit into the worldview with which they grew up and are comfortable and familiar. When the emotions aroused by that disconcerting fact are combined with legitimate political differences, their behavior has transgressed the boundaries of civil discussion and rational debate and become something much uglier. Comparing the president to a monkey, irrationally questioning his citizenship, calling for him to be ”shipped back to Africa,” carrying signs that call for the elimination of ”Obama, Michelle, and their ugly daughters,” keeping kids home from school so they won’t have to hear the president’s speech to schoolchildren — these are not rational responses to the important policy differences that require vigorous and thoughtful debate. These are the voices of people who are having a difficult time realizing that their assumptions about the natural order of things aren’t working anymore, a realization that makes them profoundly uncomfortable. It is easier for them to respond by shouting angry insults than by researching facts and developing reasoned counter arguments. (Peyton R. Helm, president of Muhlenberg College – The Morning Call)

Make no mistake. We as a country are not accustomed to associating such power, RESPECT, and, yes, admiration with black men when it comes to “masculinity.” No. Black men have been and continue to be depicted as the absolute opposite of “masculinity” . . . the antithesis to the qualities that we associate with the “hero” the “white knight” . . . the COMMANDER IN CHIEF. Indeed, black men have been the perpetual “other” to the traditional, white imagery most often associated with responsible “masculine” leadership.

It’s what I meant when I wrote:

Thank you for giving voice to the concept that black men do have a voice. Too often, society convinces us that black men have nothing to say. In fact, it seems that the only time a black man is expected to speak is if he’s on the pulpit, in a rap video, in a sports locker-room or at a court arraignment. Well, not anymore! For the next four year’s this country will have a front-row seat to black intellect. And many Americans will sit in awe as they learn that a black man can, not only speak in full sentences, but can also speak (even better, lead) on matters of war and peace, foreign and domestic policy, the economy, health care, the law . . . the list goes on and on.

And finally, thank you, Mr. President for showing young black men another option in life. My hope is that they’ll learn to see that your excellence is not rare. My hope is that you’re historic victory sparks our young black men to seek out the black lawyers, doctors, teachers and community organizers in their own neighborhoods. . . that they might learn from the entrepreneurs in their neighborhood. . . . that they might learn from the hardworking, blue collar black men that are often overlooked by society, but still find a way to take care of and provide for their families. . . that they might go to their local library and learn of the great achievements of men who look just like they do; a history rich in intelligence and leadership. (B-Serious, “Oh, the Possibilities . . . Obama and Black Men.”)

It’s a hard shell to crack, but it’s beginning to crack nonetheless. And as Mr. Helm suggests, the shrill, whiny, paranoid incoherence of the fringe elements of our society is just another example of the fear some have at the realization that they’ve lost control of what they thought was theirs and only theirs to enjoy . . . the American Identity.

Perhaps that’s the driving force behind those who question his citizenship or those who whine “I want my country back.” It is the belief (subconscious or otherwise) that a black man in such a position of power and respect is so . . . “foreign” . . . so . . . “unAmerican.”

So, why the inherent distrust? Why the presumption of malicious intent? The conspiracy theories? The threats?

It’s about reification. It’s the fact that history has long held that the least among us might share in the American dream so long as they could identify with the leading class. . . so long as the powerless might make concrete that which for them is the abstract concept of “power.”

Such has been the cycle of the powerless and the powerful in American politics. And though social status, class and gender have always divided the haves from the have-nots, there is one common denominator that has allowed the social stratification to persist despite the lack of a tangible benefit to the latter group at the expense of the former. . . RACE. Poor whites have a history of siding against their own interest for the fear that someone else might get what they themselves never had. So, instead of coalition politics, it’s easier to rant against a welfare society, fear Willie Horton, and shame the welfare queen. . .so long as the object of such contempt has black skin. For “those people,” some say, are not like “us.” “They” deserve to be where they are. “They” are lazy. “They” are uneducated. “They” are irresponsible. . . unlike “us” who pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

But now????

See, reification is the concept of vicariously realizing upward mobility and success through someone else’s experience. However, what throws some people for a loop is that, for the first time, our nation’s understanding of success, power and leadership is being realized through a Black experience in the White House.

It’s hard to live vicariously through someone else. Some might say it’s unnatural. And to those who wilt at the thought of this powerful black man speaking to your children . . . for those who faint at the fact that young white children (in fact, all children) continue their ADMIRATION for the office of the presidency despite it’s darker hue . . . for anyone who cringes at the idea of TRUSTING someone who neither looks like them nor shares their specific background to make such important decisions about their lives . . .

I say “Welcome to the club”. Black folk have been doing it for centuries. Don’t worry . . . it’ll be alright!

This is not to say that all criticism of Obama is driven by race. It is not to say that all who oppose the President are racist (though, the media should do a better job at confronting those who are). However it is to say that this president is reshaping our preconceived notions of what it means to be a “man” in our society. We finally have a counterbalance. For all of the negative imagery we see, there is and will always be the counterbalancing image of this president. And this imagery . . . this daily infusion of the “other” in a position of power, challenges us as a nation to reacess our preconceived notions that have kept so many from powerful positions simply because they did not look the part or fit the script.

This is not about politics. This is not to say that racism is an exclusive trait of the left or right (it is what it is and it comes from all sides). Rather, this is about the future potential that might be realized now that young black boys and girls have seen one of their own achieve the highest, most influential . . . most powerful office in the world. And that scares the hell out of some people. Do NOT be fooled by their false bravado and belligerence.

It scares the hell out of the weak.

It scares the hell out of the vulnerable.

It scares the hell out of the ignorant.

Sorry folks, but Obama is just the beginning.

Oh, the possibilities.

Related Posts with Thumbnails