Thursday, November 06, 2008

Let the Healing Begin

You know, my blog is supposed to be about me trying to juggle everything in my life, and there are things coming at me - trying to get things organized regarding our newest puzzles and greeting card project; our stress in refinancing our mortgage (well, the stress in finding my MIA accountant lately to get what we need to get the process going); my neverending online job interview in my quest to get a gig I can do from home whenever I feel like it because there is simply never enough money these days. It's life, therefore la la la la, it goes on. But lately the election has taken over my blog just like it has the rest of the world. Of course now the election is over - YES! - but issues remain. Well, one issue in particular and I thought I'd see what I could do with it.

I was talking with someone after the election.

PERSON: Isn't it great? The whole world is watching. It's such an exciting time!

ME: Yeah, it's fantastic. It's really great for my people. We really needed this.

PERSON: Yeah, but it's really good for everyone, you know?

ME: Absolutely! But it's also a fantastic thing for the African-American community.

I forget what she said after this. I just smiled at her and let her think I was the clueless one.

I said it in my previous post, I'm not trying to keep the racial divide alive but the cards are on the table and we may as well look at them. Everyone is trying to be in a unifying mood, right? Well, denial is not productive. Do you want to understand this thing or not? Because I can't fully explain no matter how hard I try and I can't expect everyone to fully get it. But do you want to try? Well listen up.

The African-American community is a large and diverse one and I cannot speak for us all nor do I want to so don't think you can ask me to. No generality will ever suffice either. That being said, culturally we are a private people who don't want our business in the street. What happens at home stays there. This is part of the reason we aren't big on therapy. Again, this is collective. Plenty of us endorse therapy, do it, give it.

The fact that there are issues in our community isn't a secret, I don't think. But is this brand new day one that excludes racial issues? Nope. Don't be so naïve as to think it does. We took a gigantic leap forward, that's for sure and it's a healing thing for our community to see this. But it's not a cure. Just the start. Hatred toward us and within us toward ourselves continue.

Case in point 1. Ralph Nader and his wondering if Obama will be an Uncle Sam or an Uncle Tom? I think he may have thought he was speaking on behalf of minorities. I think he mispoke.

Case in point 2. Watch this lovely little Journey's video.

That happened in 2008. Think no one is going to call President-Elect Obama this name? I promise you he knows people do.

Case in point 3. Talked to my mother after the election. She lives in one of those red states and she helped at the polls. When trying to get people to register to vote - and why are there still people over 18 who aren't anyway? - she was met with a variety of reasons why they couldn't do it such as, "I might get called for jury duty." And there was a really good one, "It might affect my paycheck." Huh? Want to know the best reason of all? Well, some of the people worked for a powerful white man who successfully threatened them with, "If you vote, I will know."

Again, this is 2008 folks. Starting to grasp what we are still dealing with? No? Ok here's a little of how we think on a daily basis without even trying - I've shared some of this before:

1 - Someone was arrested for a crime. "Oh Lord, please don't let it be a black person." It was. ::collective groan::

2 - We are accepted OR rejected for something. "Was it because I am black?" That's right, even when something good happens, we can never be too sure it's not because someone had a quota to fill and therefore we wonder if our merits were good enough on their own or not? This is more likely to be when the situation involved people we don't know or who don't know us.

3 - One too many "helpful" people come up to you in a store. "Are they following me thinking I am going to steal something?" Sometimes, that's precisely the reason. Yes, in 2008.

4 - "All rise to say the pledge of allegiance." So we do and maybe we say something or maybe we don't. But can we look at an American flag and not think betrayal and past wrongs? Nope. The red is the blood of the dark (represented by blue) people who were trampled by the whites once upon a time. Not just us, either. We know that. That red represents our red brothers and sisters as well.

5 - Ever started a new job and noticed how many people of your race are around you? We do. Every time. Generally - at least on the corporate level - we are one of a handful, if we're lucky. One of 2 usually. Me? It's me and a Latina and, for a year now, our wonderful intern from Tobago.

Some of this is the daily reality of some of us. Much of this is instinct. We don't train our kids to think this way - not all of us, anyway. I know no one trained ME to think this way. To be aware, yes, but to be suspicious of so much? No. But I suppose self-preservation is something that can be picked up even without words.

I do not consider myself hypersensitive. Nor are my friends. Nor are my parents. But for certain they would all agree that we have a lot of baggage we carry around and while we don't want it, it is there nevertheless, popping open when we least expect it. If you have any sort of baggage - and you do - then you will understand how this works. So don't tell me, "Just get over it, already." If it were that easy it would have been done by now.

I mentioned already the concerns of African-American parents in raising our children to be in the world but not scarred by it, at least not when it comes to something beyond our control like skin color - Michael Jackson aside.

So are you getting close to figuring out why Barack Obama's win is a good thing for everyone but we, as a people, REALLY needed this? Why it doesn't take away from anyone else at all or the victory we all shared, it's simply something that is personal and healing for us as a people? I hope you do see it as just that - a personal issue - and don't try to take that away from us with comments such as, "Time's have changed!" and "Look on the bright side." Instead, if someone does share that with you, feel free to listen and commiserate. Got a true similar experience? You might be able to share it if you have that kind of relationship where the other person already feels you are a trusted friend. Otherwise, listening is enough. Really.

It's simply going to take time and a willingness to be healed before this issue will really be a thing of the past. I personally think the first steps to accepting that healing have to be made by us. But I just don't know if it will be done this side of heaven. One thing is for sure, communication is opening up a bit more and that is good. A black man in the White House may cause some bigots to feel free to express their hostility a little more openly. That could be good too if only because we'll all really know who we are dealing with.

I am choosing to emphasize even more to my children that only they limit themselves. I am going to continue to look at this new beginning with the optimism I still feel, so in love with my people and now my country too.

OK. Time for a new topic.

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