Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Barack Obama: The Kunta Kinte of 2008

I woke up today thinking about the movie “Roots”. The first scene that jumps out at me is the image of Kunta Kinte being beaten because he wants to keep his real name. With each welt of the whip, he got a little weaker, until he finally changed his name to Toby.

Most of us were hit hard by this scene and hurt by it. I am equally hurt when I see Barack Obama, the political Kunta Kenta of 2008.

With each crack of the right wing whip and even some lashes by Hillary Clinton, Obama is being forced to slowly, but surely rip away everything that has helped him identify with being a black man in America. First he has to put a muzzle on his beautiful, intelligent wife, apologizing for the fact that she “misspeaks” in public. Next, he is distancing himself from Louis Farrakhan, a man with whom he had little prior association. Shortly thereafter, he goes into hiding like a broke baby’s daddy on the date of the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Assassination, all
because he didn’t want to appear “too black” for the American public.

Now we have Jeremiah Wright. After 20 years with the same pastor, Kunta Obama suddenly realizes that he made a mistake. It wasn’t sermon number 14, 122 or 1,107 that led him to that conclusion. It was Hillary Clinton and Sean Hannity who helped him see the light. They helped Barack Obama finally realize what should have been obvious from the very beginning: His radical wife needed to be put in her place, Martin Luther King is an embarrassment and his pastor can’t possibly be a true American. Thank God for Sean Hannity.

By the time Obama is done with this election, he will have fully apologized for being a strong black man in America. At that point, the transformation will be complete and Kunta will have no feet. I am only waiting for Hillary Clinton to force him to denounce Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and Harriet Tubman. After all, they were radical too.

This election surely makes Barack wish that all of his friends were white, perhaps even his wife. Those black people are just too much damn trouble. I might start getting rid of my black friends right now. Can I divorce my mama?

As I see the gobs of email coming in from readers at YourBlackWorld, the division within the black community is in full view. Some are angry at Pastor Wright for “messing up the good thing Obama has going”, while others feel that Pastor Wright should “tell it like it is.” The emails remind me of two women fighting hard over the same lying, trifling man who has learned to play them against one another. Rather than focusing on the real target (the man), the women fall right into the man’s trap, as they both so desperately seek his validation.

The truth is that the women in my example are afraid of being alone. They need him to tell them that they are beautiful. They’ve allowed this vulnerability to be exploited by a socially parasitic individual who preys on the insecurities of others. Black people, and Obama, NEED to be validated by White America. We NEED to get into the White House so that we can feel that we have achieved something. It is this need for validation from whites that leads us to sell our souls and do any tap dance necessary to achieve public approval. The loss of integrity, embarrassment, and degradation are all worth it in order to achieve the ultimate goal. I would not compare it to pure prostitution, because even prostitutes have limits.

Call me crazy, but I personally believe in a good old fashioned commodity called “integrity”. Integrity says that you don’t go denouncing your relatives because they say things that are displeasing to your audience. A high school kid doesn’t drop his little brother because the “cool kids” don’t like him. I don’t fault Jeremiah Wright for being the man he has been for the past 40 years. I only question Barack Obama, who is not the same man he was 2 years ago. I question America, a country so drunk with its own arrogance that it cannot tolerate people of color (Michelle Obama, Louis Farrakhan, Martin Luther King and Pastor Wright) who speak their mind about our country’s inequities. Every country in the world sees America’s racism. The United Nations writes reports about America’s racism. But America cannot see its own racism and those who see it are afraid to talk about it. That’s just a damn shame.

Were Obama not running for president, Jeremiah Wright would not be a problem. Barack would be going to church and saying “amen” like the rest of us. But the continuous game of psychological twister being thrust upon him by the right wing has forced him to lie as much as any other politician. Perhaps a young Barack Obama thought, in some idealistic way, that just being a good American could get him elected. Like many black men in America, Obama thought that doing the right thing, working hard and being a good person would be enough. But like the rest of us, he gets slapped with the reality that being a black man in America is one of the most unpopular positions on the social totem pole. Only a complete apology and full extraction from where you came from will do the trick: NBA players go through it, black professors go through it and politicians REALLY go through it.

Barack Obama, in my opinion, is not going to win this election. But no matter the outcome, his soul will be weary, weak and depleted. Kunta Obama will have no feet, and he may not even get to be president.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is an Assistant Professor of Finance at Syracuse University and author of “What if George Bush were a Black Man?” For more information, please visit

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Can We Talk?

Google is an amazing thing. You can find almost anything on it. Just type in your topic of choice into google and you are bound to get a website dedicated to it. Go ahead and try it. It's amazing. The internet is a remarkable venue for getting information on various topics that you care about. Except for a few important ones.

Let's look at the other side. What must you conclude when you google a topic and very little comes up? When the google engine doesn't find a website that caters to your topic what does that say about society thinks about it?

Even more frightening is when a topic like "celebrity gossip" will have many more websites dedicated to it than whatever you can think of.

But go ahead and type in "Race Dialogue" into google. Try "Let's talk about Race." You have to look hard to find some websites dedicated to that, reflecting two things: 1) there aren't that many websites dedicated to this issue and 2) those that do exist are not that popular.

How do we expect to make any progress if there is never a moment when a black man looks the receptive white man in the eye and tells him the goddamn truth!

How do we expect to grow when the white woman never gets to express how often she is ignored because she is seen as bland and uninteresting?

How do we expect to move forward when the white man never has the chance to be honest because he is automatically seen as the one with all of the rights and benefits of this society (even if that is true)?

How do we get past where we are now when the black woman doesn't openly talk with the black man about gender, the white woman about race and the white man about either?

How do we expect to see a better future when the other races haven't had the real chance to express their issues fully to anyone because of the societal tendencies towards the Black-White paradigm?

Lord have mercy...

Can those of us who are willing just get in a room and TALK!?!?!


Where are those black men who are strong enough right now to hear a white man say "racism is dead" and while being enraged still be able to calmly respond with "Can we openly and honestly talk about that?" Where are YOU? I KNOW you are out there!

Where are the white women who have the courage to look a man in the eye and say, "I have been disrespected for years. I think this is OUR problem. Can you respectfully converse with me about this issue or do I need to find a better man to talk to?" Where are YOU? I KNOW you are out there!

Where are those white men who are insightful enough to see their inherent advantages, but introspective enough to see their own struggles to express to everyone that "I know I have many bonuses in this country, but I also have problems too. I am just and am willing to listen and fight for your cause. Can you hear about my issues as well?" Where are YOU? I KNOW you are out there!

Where are those Black women who are powerful enough to say to all of the aforementioned people, "I have issues with all of you. I will make the time to sit with each of you and talk about this. It's that important." Where are YOU? I KNOW you are out there!

And when will everyone else find within themselves the spirit to say "What about us? We have been ignored. Are we not here? I know the history of this society and am willing to help you. Can you help me too?" Where are YOU? I KNOW you are out there!

Can We Talk?!?!

Is this not common sense? If I pick a room, will you meet me there? Or do I need to ask someone else who is stronger and able to talk for real?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sean Bell Acquittal - Why We Need to Worry

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

Like the rest of the world, the Sean Bell verdict shocked me out of my socks. I was taken aback that the officers in the case were acquitted of all criminal charges. The case hurt me because, like Sean Bell, I am a black man and a father. Also, unlike most others, my father has been in law enforcement for the past 25 years.

When I see cases of black men who are shot by police, my emotions are as torn as a human body being ripped apart by thoroughbred horses. I understand and fight for the plight of black men as part of my human duty. At the same time, I have spent years listening to officers describe the frightening experiences they endure on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s be clear: police officers get scared like the rest of us. It is difficult for us to judge the plight of an officer without knowing what it’s like to be consistently exposed to orphan-makers on a day-to-day basis. One bad move, you can end up dead or paralyzed.

When it comes to the case of Sean Bell, the truth is that I wasn’t there and there is always a possibility that officers were justified in their use of force. So, I am not here to argue guilt or innocence in this particular trial.

At the same time, there is a history of Sean Bell-like incidents occurring throughout our nation, both past and present. It is no coincidence that, in many of these cities, black men are the only ones being shot, arrested and incarcerated by a system of justice that has been a tool for black oppression. I don’t hear much about unjust shootings of white women or people who live in the suburbs. The use of force is not nearly as acceptable or likely in suburbs or on college campuses, where young people get as rowdy as anywhere else. That’s a fact.

Even beyond the Sean Bell case, black people have strong reason to be angry. This black anger is not just about Sean Bell or the possibly unjustified use of force. It is about the cumulative impact of 400 years of the same old lies. If someone kills an officer, even in self-defense, he is sure to get life in prison since the words of other officers carry tremendous weight. For the same reasons, an officer who shoots a black man has a good chance for acquittal. There is something wrong with that. The anger is righteous and justified, since the justice system has earned almost no credibility in the eyes of black people. We can’t tell a lie from the truth and

One cannot deny that there is an historical “blue line” in which officers protect one another, even in the event of wrong-doing. This line, along with the fact that an officer’s word is almost always going to be taken over those who’ve been arrested, has led to thousands of false incarcerations, particularly of black men. The additional notion that some departments do not take abuse complaints seriously adds to the (sometimes correct) perception that officers exist to control poor and black people, who are included in the distribution of true justice in America.

I expect that the summer of 2008 is going to be as racially hot as the summer of 1968. Racial tensions are boiling over from a pile of incidents ranging from the Sean Bell case to the “ghettoization” of Barack Obama’s candidacy for the White House via distorted reporting on Fox News. The sores of our past are beginning to fester, and the reality is that our sick nation will die without proper treatment.

There is no more critical time for an honest dialogue on race. Sean Bell is just the beginning.

Sean Bell Commentary in the Video Below:

Monday, April 7, 2008

My Life as a Subway Employee

I never thought I would be working in fast food. Making other people’s food wasn’t in the plans. I work at Subway for three reasons: I need the money, it’s close to my school and they work around my hectic schedule. And the free food I take home after every shift. It’s a decent gig for a person like me who hasn’t done fast food before. At the end of the day it’s a paycheck and a foot long Ham & Cheese on wheat. I graduate in December so I don’t plan on making veggie wraps my whole life. Trust me, I will be in somebody’s grad school or place of employment by January.

These are the Top 5 Things I Dislike about Customers.

Please feel free to respond.

1. Don’t Ask for Outrageous Things.

I had one lady order a tuna sandwich with the following ingredients. She wanted light lettuce, 4 olives, 2 tomatoes, 3 yellow peppers, 8 olives, 1 strand of mayonnaise, 3 squirts of mustard and finally she wanted me to cut it in sixths. I forgot to mention I had a line of 10 people behind her with similar tastes.

2. You’ve Been Standing in Line for over 5 Minutes….What Do You Want?

I can tell when someone hasn’t been to Subway that much/at all because they’ll ask me “What’s good here”. For people who don’t fit this description you need to come in with something in mind and ORDER. I have 5 like-minded people behind you waiting to order and I have other behind the scenes duties to accomplish. Stop wasting my time and ORDER. The worst person is someone who gets offended when you POLITELY ask them to let somebody else order because they are holding up the million people behind them. Please know what you want. “Uhhhhhhhhh let me see uhhhhhhhhhh” is not the answer I’m looking for.

3. The Customer Can Be Wrong

I do make mistakes sometimes. But in those events when YOU are wrong please be man/woman enough to admit when you are wrong. As a customer and food service employee I know both sides of the game. Sometimes it is the employees fault but sometimes its YOUR fault as the customer. If you asked for light mayonnaise instead of heavy mayonnaise, don’t be mad at me if you made a mistake.

4. Why Are You Mad at Me? I Don’t Order the Food

In any high-volume fast food place there will be shortages from time to time. Most of the time these problems can’t be fixed readily because either the shipment only comes in at a certain time of day or we can’t get any more product from another neighboring store. When customers say things to me like “Why don’t you have this or that? YOU SHOULD HAVE IT” or my favorite “You mean to tell me you’re out of (insert any item); don’t you think people would order (insert any item)”

I make the sandwiches. I’ll let my assistant or head manager know that we are out of these items but that’s the best I can do. Why are you arguing with the lowest guy on the totem pole? I don’t have any kind of power to get you these items. I wish I could because I know what its like to have your mouth set on something and your place of choice doesn’t have it. Your best bet is to voice your concerns with the person who can actually do something such as a MANAGER. I just make the sandwiches. Period

5. You Can’t Eat ¾ of the Sandwich and Expect A Refund

This should be self explanatory but some idiot will eat ¾ of a sandwich and bring it in to me for a refund or a new sandwich. You should know if a sandwich is improperly made or nasty after 2 bites. Don’t eat most of the sandwich and complain to me. Are you serious?