Monday, August 25, 2008

An Opportunity To Complain

The ability to never never never be pleased has been honed to a fine art. 

In an article in the NYT, Roderick J. Harrison (a demographer who happens to have black skin) is quite excited about Barack Obama becoming the Democratic nominee -- his excitement, however, is tempered (in spite of the chills he may feel now and again) by uneasiness as he wonders: "Will Mr. Obama's success further the notion that the long struggle for racial equality has finally been won?"

As I read this, my first thought was, "You have GOT to be kidding me." But no -- they're not kidding. As the NYT reports, "But even as they cheer him on, some black scholars, bloggers and others who closely follow the race worry that Mr. Obama's historic achievements might make it harder to rally support for policies intended to combat racial discrimination, racial inequities and urban poverty." 

Mr. Harrison is, at the age of 59, a sociologist at Howard University and a consultant for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Well, he certainly SOUNDS important... I'm bettin' that he had some opportunity in order to get to the positions he's in. But he says, "I worry that there is a segment of the population that might be harder to reach, average citizens who will say: 'Come on. We might have a black president, so we must be over it.' That is the danger, that we declare victory. Historic as this moment is, it does not signify a victory in the ongoing, daily battle." 

"Such concerns have been percolating in black intellectual circles for months, on talk radio and blogs, in dinner conversations, academic meetings and flurries of e-mail messages crisscrossing the country." says the article. 

Hmmm... wait a minute. We have black people in professorial positions in colleges and universities... black people in "intellectual circles," black people on talk radio and writing blogs - having dinner conversations, sitting and participating in academic meetings, etc... and their main concern is that it's not yet easy enough to be a successful black person? How easy does it need to be? And a bigger question: if it's easy... is it really success?

Lawrence Bobo, a black sociologist from Harvard, said, "If Obama becomes the president, every remaining, powerfully felt black grievance and every still deeply etched injustice will be cast out of the realm of polite discourse. White folks will just stop listening." 

Huh? No offense, Bobo, but that sounds like typical victim mentality talking there. "Oh no!! We can't have a black man become president of the United States!! If that happens, the white folks will just stop listening to our grievances... and we feel those powerfully! Plus, they'll just keep on racially discriminating and shutting up more black folks than white folks in the prisons! And there won't be anybody trying to dole out bigger hand-outs to lift the black folks out of poverty! You know, there are TWO Americas!!" Well, I'm pretty much in agreement there. There ARE two Americas. There are the workers and there are the takers. 

Bev Smith is a black talk radio host based in Pittsburgh and nationally syndicated. That sounds successful, doesn't it? But here's her concern about Obama: "There's an assumption now that we've made it. Our concern is that we'll get lost in the shuffle." But Bev... you're heard nationally on the radio. I hardly think that you need to worry that YOU'LL get lost. 

I'll tell you... I live in the south. And I live near a large black population. I have met some black people who have been very nice and easy going... but there is another segment of the black population here who are carrying a great and heavy weight... it's holding them down, to be sure. Unfortunately, the only weight they're actually carrying is the large chip on their shoulder - and if they'd just lose that, they would be more capable of looking high enough to see the opportunities available to them. 

Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, says, "A few of my white friends have asked me, 'With Barack achieving all of this, will we be in a position where we can put race aside?'" Mr. Cummings points them to statistics on lingering racial disparities in eduation, health and income. "I hope that progressive-minded people will not make a blanket conclusion that if Barack has made it everybody can make it."

Oy. Mr. Cummings -- you've "made it," haven't you? Or... are you not satisfied unless YOU'RE elected president as well? You do realize that most people in the United States - white OR black - don't end up becoming president? And I'm sorry -- but I already believe that everybody CAN make it, with or without Barack Obama. That's not to say that everybody will. I'm afraid that too many people get confused about equal opportunity. Not all white people have the same opportunity as one another, either. Many white people don't have the opportunity to go to a fine college... many don't have the opportunity to join NASA, be in professional basketball, football, hockey, etc... many don't have the ability which pretty much leaves them out of the opportunity equation. And many don't have the desire, which leaves the opportunity moot. 

But get the chip off your shoulder, seize the opportunities available to you, and make something of yourself. If you don't have the desire to do so, then stop complaining. 

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