Last Sunday I had my dad over for dinner. My father and I have only known each other for 5 years. Our relationship is a work in progress with many false starts. My mother who passed away 2 years ago was his maid and she had an affair with him and became pregnant with yours truly. At first she considered an abortion (they were not legal at the time). The morning of the abortion, she said she looked at herself in the mirror and asked God to promise her it would be a girl (she had a son already) and that she would grow to be as successful as her father’s family. My father’s family owned a chain of barbecue joints and at the time they were successful in the sense that they were not on government assistance like many of the African American’s in my mom’s circle of friends.
The rest is history or herstory .
(Looks at chest) I am a woman and I am successful as far as being an educated woman and self sufficient. On Sunday after dinner, I helped my father look for a way to get medical assistance. He has no health insurance. Has been in jail for a felony including murder. He is now 62 and must worry about his health. So yes mom, I guess you can say I grew to be as successful as my father’s family. She never would have foreseen my sitting with him navigating the Social Security.gov pages with him, 39 years after my birth.
My dad voted for Obama. I did not. Sunday, I felt the need to reveal that to him. There have been too many lies between us already. I did not want him to think I was a liberal because I feel as his daughter, he should accept me unconditionally.
We were eating pizza and he was going on about how Obama is being set up by “da man” and handed a bad economy because he is a black president and people are “out to get him”. Through his rant I was silent.
Finally I put my fork down and said “Dad I did not vote for Obama. I am a Republican- a conservative. I did not feel that he was the best person for the job. I hope you are not disappointed in me but over the last two years or so I have changed my political leanings towards the right.”
Dad was quiet for a bit but said “Afrocity Look. I cannot vote first of all (due to convictions) but if I could have Obama would have been the only one. It is a step in the right direction for our people.”
I said, “But is he really ‘our people’ ? I would rather have seen an African American that I believed in and had the proper experience and leadership skills. Not this way. Not race baiting and silent affirmative action.”
Dad said “We have to start somewhere.“
I said “Okay. So how exactly has your life changed as a Black man since the election?”
He mentioned the stimulus and how it will give more aid (welfare IMHO) to black communities. I told him that I would like to see Blacks excel on their own merits and stop being victims. He said “Who Afrocity? Like me?”
We stopped the conversation as a buzzer went off because I had a pie in the oven.
The next day I was on the Green Line subway and almost every person of color had an Obama skull cap on. The women had Obama tote bags. One had three disheveled kids with her. She had to be 22 at the most. I did not see hope in her eyes only frustration as she dealt with her small brood.
Has Obama helped her? Will his election help all of those African American kids in the Chicago neighborhoods like the southside’s Englewood community where Jennifer Hudson’s family was murdered? Incidentally Jennifer said this week she no longer considers herself a Chicagoan. I can’t say that I blame her.
My mother raised me on welfare and foodstamps. When those ran out we went to local food pantries to receive boxes of expired canned goods and powdered milk. I cannot change that. What I could change was my future. I did that by seeing my potential and completing my education. No drugs, I practiced abstinence, hard work. I saw welfare as a deterrent to the success of the African American community and watched for decades as it made my mother slip deeper into complacency. Now to watch my father wonder and hope that he will get medical care and more public assistance because Barack Obama is POTUS disturbs me.
Have we gone forward as African Americans or back?
My mother and I in 1984. Yes we were on welfare even then.