27 January 2009

Barack and Us

Note: I'm cleaning up at SITC today and discovered several never-published posts, including this one from June 2008. It's obviously unfinished but I don't want to throw it out. So I'm publishing it just to make sure it lands in the archives.

I live mostly outside the loop of popular media. Typically, it's the after-buzz, the response to an event that catches my eye and provokes a Google search to find out what people are talking about. Today I was forwarded Dr. Boyce Watkins' blog commentary on Fox News' reference to Michelle Obama as Barack's "baby mama." (Note: When you follow the link, there's a YouTube interview at the top but I'm referring to the blog post below it.)

I forwarded the piece to someone else and, in the response to my forward, learned about Rev. Pfleger, a priest at the center of another precipitating event that I missed.

As some of you know, I am so tired of race talk -- as it commonly presents -- that I could just lay down in dirt and cry. My recent Meyers-Briggs designation notwithstanding, the "race" conversation is one instance in which I am NOT enamored of process; I am ready -- knees-shaking like a lost-in-the-desert-crazy-thirsty-ready-for-water kind of ready -- for a purposeful, productive, advancing discourse on "race" in America.

So I appreciate the intimacy and nuance of Dr. Watkins' analysis. I agree with him that it is critical to consider the subjectivity of the Judge on the day when Dr. King's dream is realized and we are judged on the "content of our character." Surely the character of the Judge--not to mention his/her life experience, education, personal theology, value system and cultural heritage--must be taken into account when his/her verdict is pronounced.

Watkins points to the place beyond racism where something he calls "racial inequality" is the issue. He defines "racial inequality" as
what you have in a society after 400 years of social, political and economic exclusion. Some might argue that "racial inequality" is a feature of racism; I agree. Still, isolating this aspect makes possible a deeper, more relevant conversation; it moves us beyond worn-out hysterics about the horrors of slavery and the barbarism of the Ku Klux Klan, and makes a space for acknowledging the interface of class and race and the real-time lived experience of being colored in America today.

Among the several other provocative ideas mentioned in Dr. Watkins' piece is this thought:
While I encourage Senator Obama to keep running his excellent campaign, I also encourage all of us to be clear about just how much we are willing to denounce or let slide in order to get to the White House. ...we must be careful about meeting every unreasonable demand of a country that is sick with racism just because we are seeking their love and approval.

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