It’s hard for people to understand how other people live. We can empathize, we can give support but to actually understand how the neighbor lives is difficult. When there is something we don’t understand, in a lot of instances we tend to belittle, dismiss and reject opposition opinions. You can find die hard conservatives who will defend their way of life to the bitter end and will portray supposed enemies with the vilest of portraits. Liberals do the same thing to conservatives, many times giving equally vile representation of the opposition.
People don’t take the time to listen to what the other side has to say, to imagine that maybe their strongly held beliefs might be in error. What both sides love to do is find someone, especially someone who was vocal on one side, who has switched sides and reveals the ‘secrets’ of the opposition. David Brock, at the time of the Clinton Administration, was a right wing darling. During that era, he was on all the conservative talk shows, was a fixture on television because he was one of the lead people who talked about the evils of the Clintons. At some point, he had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment and now he is a defender of the Clintons. Now he is famous for supporting the Clintons on television and in print. A reviled figure in the 90s by liberals, he is now someone welcomed on those shows, while like Moses in the movie The Ten Commandments, in conservative media his name has been stricken from every tablet, every bit of media; a pariah to those who feel the Clintons are evil.
There is a group of writers and pundits, even a few politicians in the past few years, who have made a good living for themselves as being what I call ‘black truthers.’ These are black people who have made a good living in conservative circles by proclaiming to be the antidote to, and let us not mince words on this, uppity Negros. People like Larry Elder, Walter E Williams, Jesse Lee Peterson, Mia Love, Stacey Dash, Herman Cain, Dr. Ben Carson and others are the black personas used to counter the argument that conservatives have little interest in catering or listening to the concerns of Black America. These folks support the notion that America isn’t a racist country, that if blacks would only work hard and not use race as a crutch, black people can make it. They use their own stories of struggle to prove that black Americans don’t need to be slaves to the Democratic party. When looked at deeply, it isn’t ironic that that in the last Presidential election Herman Cain was a leading contender for the Republican nomination, nor is it a surprise that Dr. Ben Carson is gathering even more support on this election cycle from conservative voter.
The folks I mention cement their reputations, and monetary gains, by telling their followers that the stereotypes they foster about black people are true, but they, through the grace of God and the Republican way, have broken the chains of government slavery. Dr. Ben Carson said this about Obamacare at the Value Voters Summit on October 11, 2013.
“the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery, and it is, in a way, it is slavery in a way because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”
Conservatives eat this up not just because they have a hatred about Obama and Obamacare, but it was said by someone who is the same race as Obama. Carson and others like him aren’t radial Negros like the President, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and many other ‘Negro leaders.’
Just as a side comment, I’m very insulted with the idea of a leader for a race or minority group because those people designated as leaders are normally convenient representatives used my media outlets. You always hear about black, Hispanic and homosexual leaders. This very small group of individuals become the de facto spokespeople for their particular groups yet they are seldom elected or bestowed this honor by the people they represent. I’ve said for years while I can admire the work that Jackson, Sharpton and others have done, I’ve never met them or voted for them to be my representative. They don’t speak on my behalf and it shouldn’t be assumed they speak for me.
The same can be said of the black conservatives. They don’t know my life or how I live. I find it insulting they would paint a picture of me to people who don’t know me and who already have negative opinions of people like me. From what I’ve seen in coverage of this election cycle, there are a lot of Republicans and conservatives who have little regards for Black Lives Matter. Some seem to think that Black Lives Matter is akin to the Black Panthers of the 60s. What I find fascinating is when the Tea Party Movement was at its height, when their rallies had a good number of signs and protesters who defiantly were promoting a racist narrative, this was dismissed in the conservative press. They didn’t believe a picture of the White House with rows of watermelons was racist, or pictures of Obama in cartoonish ‘African’ garb with a bone through his nose, or thousands of other derogatory comments and images. However, if there is a chant against the police for a few moments at an otherwise peaceful Black Lives Matter rally, well then those ‘uppity Negros’ need to be smeared as racist thugs. We need to register them as a hate group. We have to dismiss the grievances they talk about.
The conservatives don’t feel guilty for having ill will against Black Lives Matter because they can point to Dr. Ben Carson who has said about the movement that it is ‘foisting itself on people, rather than engaging in dialog, and bullying people’ and to other conservative blacks and whites whom have dismissed the organization as un-American. For years, before fate stepped in and tarnished his career, Bill Cosby made a post-Cosby Show turn around and started talking about the problems of black America. He said young men needed to ‘pull their pants up’ and other statements that seemed like the rantings of a grumpy old man, but those comments rang true to conservatives. Years of Reagan’s ‘welfare queens,’ of ‘wilding’ even to ‘twerking’ there are many in this country who see black Americans as people who will always be dependent and not worthy of the bounties of America until they learn their place.
The slight problem I see with the Black Lives Matter’s movement is something they can’t control, because the initial growth of the movement and the nature of people will not allow people to step back to look at the real reason the protests are happening. When a black person is shot by the police, the first inclination of many people is to assume the person had to do something wrong to get shot. If they have on a hoodie, if they resist arrest, if they ran away, they have to be guilty. Even when prominent Professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested in his own home, for getting into his own home after a long trip, the conservative media demonized him. When the President said it was wrong what the police had done, it was the opening conservatives needed to smear the President as the ‘black President’ only looking out for the needs of ‘his people.’ The Black Lives Matter movement tries to illustrate the injustices that can happen to all but it is very easy to turn people away from the movement by simply playing to people’s stereotypes.
An image of peaceful demonstration is boring on the news, but have a picture of a black student with ‘wild hair’ punching the air, that will be replayed over and over again. If later reporting shows that the same student comes from a privileged family, then the question arises about what discrimination has that student really felt?
When people think of racist and racism in America, they think of black and white images of Bull Conner, George Wallace, police dogs and fire hoses. They think of something from the past, something that we have grown past. Stacey Dash, Larry Elder and others talk about that to their conservative crowds. They talk all the time about how racism isn’t a thing anymore and if people would stop talking about it, it wouldn’t exist. Just like the Mizzou student who was so prominent in so many videos on national newscasts was dismissed when he didn’t fit the image of the downtrodden, ghetto living black male, people throw out examples of black entertainment stars and sports athletes who make millions of dollars. For them, it is proof that people don’t care about race, because they made it. By that set of logic, the thousands of white Americans, like Donald Trump and Bill Gates, shows that white America shouldn’t protest about inequalities they face, because they have examples of people who have triumphed.
Americans want in your face, scary racism. If that isn’t presented, many feel racism isn’t a factor. From my point of view, as a 51-year-old Gen-X black man living in America, yes there is racism in America. Do I think racism is everywhere? Not from the sense of the Bull Conner sense of racism, but I see the people who are afraid of me when I walk down the street, or go into a store. I was reminded a few weeks ago of when I first walked into a local bar and the comments I got, not because I was a stranger to the bar but because I was a ‘strange black man’ that entered the bar. I still go to that bar, and some of the people who initially treated me with leeriness now treat me well. Of course, that brings up the other side of the racism picture. There have been numerous times when people have felt so comfortable around me that they felt OK to tell me a ‘black joke’ or share their story about ‘I don’t mean to be racist but . . .’ I’ve been places where Obama was called a coon and worse. I have even been asked a question about ‘my people’ such as ‘I don’t mean to be racist but why do so many black people aren’t grateful for the stuff America gives them?’
You know why I can understand the anger and pain that the Black Lives Matter people feel? Because more times than I care to admit, when I’m asked the dumb question, when I’m told the racist joke, when I have to walk slower than I like so I don’t seem like I’m scaring someone, when I have to do all those things to ‘get along,’ I get angry. It reminds me how far we haven’t come. It reminds me that even though I’m a good person, that I’m a nice guy, that I’m intelligent, that I like my cat, that I do all sorts of good and wonderful things, I’m going to be a black guy to most people. I hate it when I’m somewhere in public and I see kids being kids, with all the fashion trends and surging energy of kids, and I see people look at them as thugs and potential criminals. I hate it that if I’m at a buffet that I don’t get watermelon because I don’t want to feel like I have to look over my shoulders wondering if people are going to stare at me. You might think that’s funny but it has happened to me. Again, it doesn’t matter if I’m this cool Star Wars fan, my outer skin is going to define me to most people.
So yes, the Black Lives Matter movement is important because in the example of the guy who was in that video clip, before people knew he came from wealth no one assumed he might have money. No one assumed that as a ‘privileged’ black man in America he might face the same slights, injustices and dismissive looks as a kid from ‘the ghetto.’ Being defined by skin is the reason we need Black Lives Matter.