Autographed Letter Signed

A Mostly Center-Right Place For Those With Irritable Obama Syndrome and Diversity Fatigue

If You’re Black and Tired…You’re FIRED November 23, 2010

Finding an African American who will criticize President Barack Obama and take him to task for what he promised to do and did not while playing golf…is like finding someone who hates oxygen. ..Okay well there is me, Afrocity and Alan West, Michael Steel.

Okay, Okay let me correct my statement.

Finding an African American who VOTED for Obama and now will openly criticize his job performance is like finding a tax cut in a Congressional law proposed by a Democrat.

Better?

Seriously, after listening to many black acquaintances saying things like “Those white boyz are out to get President Obama” and “White people are setting ‘our boy’ up to fail so we won’t never have another black president”,  I am beginning to think that black liberals do not think critically about political issues beyond race and ethnicity. The legacy of African Americans and the Democratic Party is a nearly 50 years long one. Previous to that, most blacks in America were Republicans.  Presently with the unwavering black allegiance to Party of  Ass,  it makes one wonder what sort of pact with the devil did the liberals make to get one entire race to become so politically myopic?

If we thought blacks were against diversity of opinion when it comes to politics then- believe me, the problem was further exacerbated when “first African American”  Barack Obama took the throne in 2009.

Who cares that the man who would be president is spinning fairy donkey tales on Kool Aid Mountain?

Who cares that this man has a questionable background, a record of voting present, a string of sullied associates?

Who cares that the man’s only true accomplishment is campaigning, being elected and before he can finish the job in one office, he runs for another?

You cannot do that with the Presidency of the United States.

“World King” is fortunately not a job that currently exists.   But if it did, you can bet that Barack Obama would campaign and run for it.

What Barry does not understand is that somewhere over the hope and change rainbow, after the campaigning, adulation and applause, lies a little reality called winning the election and being expected to  “work”.   W-O-R-K . Not campaigning some more, going to play golf, flying in Air Force One, partying with Jay-Z and Beyonce, whining that everything is Bush’s fault and the Republicans are out to get you…but work.

African Americans elected 95% for Barack Obama and despite his mediocre performance and lack of ability to turn the economy around, he is still their man.

Except for one brave woman who stood up against Obama in a townhall meeting, you would be challenged to find an Obama supporter who dared to utter anything but undying praise for the first black president.

Thank you Velma Hart for possessing the courage to say what I wish many African Americans would say to Barack Obama.

Of course to many liberals, Velma Hart could not exist.  Someone missed their dose of Kool Aid better call the “hope medics”.  She had to be a conservative plant.

Sorry Dr. Hill, Velma Hart was not a plant but you may be happy to hear that she was FIRED from her job this week.

From this story at Fox News:

Woman ‘Exhausted’ Defending Obama Loses Job

November 23, 2010

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The woman who told President Barack Obama that she was “exhausted” from defending him and his economic policies and waiting for the change she expected after voting for him has another reason to be put out: She’s lost her job.

Velma Hart, the chief financial officer
for Am Vets, a veteran services organization based in Maryland, said Monday in an interview with CNBC that she was laid off as part of the nonprofit’s effort to cut expenses.

“I want to focus on the positive and be optimistic,” said Hart, who lives in Upper Marlboro, Md. “And assume that somehow things will work out, that there’s an opportunity out there with Velma’s name on it that’s right around the corner.”

Am Vets executive director Jim King told The Washington Post that the nonprofit was looking for ways to survive financially.

“It’s not anything she did,” King told the Post for a story that appeared online Monday. “She got bit by the same snake that has bit a lot of people. It was a move to cut our bottom line.”

“…She got bit by the same snake…”???

Or perhaps you omitted the likely truth?  That Velma Hart got bit by the snake she asked for a refund after he sold oil to her that did not do what it claimed to do?

Velma Hart, Juan Williams and the list of African Americans who speak out against liberal policies and lose their jobs will grow.

I thought the end of slavery meant freedom of ideas?

How can anyone say that there is an achievement gap between blacks an whites when it is self imposed primarily because we are aligning ourselves with a party that places a footprint in our butts whenever we speak out against it?

That is not freedom.

Allen West (R-FL) was just elected to congress on November 2nd.  Allen West is black.  Now Allen West is being branded as “wingnut” by mainstream media.

Here is another video about West. Notice the title of the video. West preaches hate.

“Wingnut” will soon get downgraded to “Uncle Tom”.   This is how the left treats anyone of color- especially blacks -that deviate from the liberal agenda.   Choice equates freedom.  This is why I am actually a Republican but also pro-choice.  I also believe that political choice equates freedom.

More African Americans should continue to speak out against the liberal agenda and how our schools are still failing, our kids are still dying and how the Democrats have not stopped it one bit.  It is not a question of what a political party can do for us.  It is a question of realizing that our destiny remains entirely up to us and if we want to be taken seriously, we have to stop blindly supporting a party that takes our vote for granted.

Unfortunately, we punish anyone within our race that asks “Why are we jumping off this mountain just because a Democrat told us to?”

And that my friends is slavery. It does not matter what color our president is.

From The British Library

Autographed Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

 

Sunday Soliloquy: Just Wait Until Your Father Gets Home July 18, 2010

Incoming text message for Afrocity:

DAD: Come watch me run the 5K next week.  Soldier Field

AFROCITY:  (After a long pause, disbelief)  When?

DAD: Wednesday

AFROCITY:  I will try…

Wow.  My father invited me to watch him run. To support him.  The loving daughter standing at the finish line cheering dad on, waiting with open arms and a bottle of cold Evian.   Even clad in a “GO DAD GO”  tee-shirt perhaps.

Up until now Autographed Letter Signed has been terrifically informative about my relationship with my mother’s life and death.  I have never got into a deep discussion of my father’s life.  How could I?  I have only known the man since 2005 when I looked up his name on the internet.

Make no mistake, dad and I are a work in progress- nothing more to say really.  We speak on the phone and see each other in person maybe three times a year despite living in the same city.

I invite him over for dinner. He cancels at the last minute.

He invites me to a family wedding and I play paddy cake with my decision which is ultimately NO.   Too many paternal family members too fast.  One on one would be best for now.

In nearly all of the minutes that I do share with my father, I am reminded of all the time that he did not share with me.  The echo of curiosity, skepticism, and  ambivalence stalks every invitation.

Can I ever really forgive and forget? Will I let myself?

He wants me to watch him make it to the finish line at some race.  I am proud that at the old age of 63, he runs marathons. It makes me feel proud and like shit that my mother died at 68 because she was overweight and never exercised. She died of hypertension- the silent killer.

How dare he ask me to watch him be all senior and healthy when my mother dies because she was unhealthy?

What the hell do I look like cheering on this man who never changed my Pampers at a race which raises money for kids – ironically?

Kodak moment potential aside, what would my mother think of me?

Trader daughter bitch,” mother would say to me up from far above the sky’s clouds in heaven while watching the Montel William’s show in  her government subsidized housing.   “I am dead now and look at you hanging out waiting for the prodigal dad to return home just so you can knit some perfect black family life that you never had.”

Dead momma is right.

Let’s face it. Nothing you ever do Afrocity. Nothing, will erase the fact that you did not grow up African American and Cobsy Show perfect middle class.

That dream was assassinated the moment you were conceived. A causality of single black mother/absent black father life in the inner city.

According to his 2008 speech on absent black fathers, I think Barack Obama would agree that dad and I are a causality of black life. The following quote is about the only thing Obama has ever said that I do agree with:

We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception…Too many fathers are M.I.A, too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes…They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.

-Barack Obama

Young Afrocity never had to hear the ominous words

“Wait until father gets home.”

There was no father. No huge size 12 workman’s boots sitting at the front door, drying from the rain along with baby’s boots and mother’s.   Never once did I have a masculine shoulder to rest on when I fell asleep at church.  I learned over the years that a man’s absence would dominate the pattern of my life. It was not a long hiatus because he had a fight with mom.  He was gone and I lived life without him along with the rest of his children but we were living the life of the Great Society- the welfare society.

And perhaps more pathetically, I tried to distract from the void by creating a special grief club with my dad’s other crazy quilted offspring.

My younger half-sister was welcomed into my home, along with her three year son fathered by a married man.  In an entirely selfish on my part move, I believed I could rehabilitate her into a college graduate.   I was raised by mother to think that education and nit pregnancy was a way out.  My half-sister learned none of these lessons from our father.  Apparently neither did my older half-sister who has six children and currently lives on welfare.

You may recall a past post about the latter sister. She had/has ovarian cancer and relies on Government health insurance.  The same insurance that allowed her to have 10 years worth of abnormal pap smear results and did nothing. The same government health insurance that offered her virtually zero options for her cancer besides a hysterectomy.  In an attempt to be a good sister, or at the very least, a good half sister, I enlisted the help of my own gynecologist.  “Please help my sister,”  I said.  “She has ovarian cancer and  public assistance insurance and awful doctors.  No one is giving her a straight story or treating her like a an equal.”

Did I mention that both sisters- I mean half-sisters -dumped me?

The younger one, just stopped calling me out of the blue.  There I was with a box full of toys and kid books I had bought for her son to come play with when they visited.   She was supposed to let me help her with her applications for college…then poof.  She was gone. My messages went unanswered. What did I do?  Was it the guacamole dip I made when we were watching movies one night and talking about dating bad men??? I can make it more spicy next time.  I promise. Please call back.

The older, I am more forgiving of.

She was battling cancer.  While we had spoken over the phone several times and I shared my gynecologist number with her, I had never actually met this woman in the flesh.  Sure there were specific things I knew about her from our father’s amazingly insightful commentary.

“She (my sister) is ghetto. She wears this big blond weave that is fried, dyed, and slicked to the side,” explained our father.  “She is street wise- not like you Afrocity…She acts very black, has a gold tooth…”

Okay,  I thought, so we won’t go shopping together or share beauty tips but I can at least meet my father’s other daughter.

I asked her over for dinner. She said she could only eat bland foods like boiled potatoes because of the chemo.

More than happy to accommodate her dietary restrictions, I offered to make  her a nice meal of Sheppard’s pie.  What’s more bland and filling than Irish food?    We agreed on a dinner date . Shopping for ground lamb and Yukon Gold potatoes made me dwell on the oddity of the situation.  I have never even cooked a meal for my mother’s son- my half brother. I have known him all of my life.  Now here I am looking at low sodium lamb broth for some woman I have never met that shares my paternal DNA.

This recipe of  instant sisterhood requires parsley, sage rosemary and time….

What would we talk about?

“Hi, so nice to finally meet you…I understand that our dad cheated on your mother with my mother and that is how we are so close in age… Can I get you a glass of water? I have tap or Pellegrino..Cancer popsicles? Rice cakes?”

Half sister to sister, we would tell fatherless ghost stories, share pictures of our mother’s boyfriends- our “uncles”,  and look at our brown faces to see if there is any resemblance.

And therein lied the problem of such a meeting of the fatherless minds.  The recognition that no amount of tea and half sister sympathy would ever change our narrative. Three half sisters don’t make a whole father.

She never came for dinner.

I never called her to see why she never called me.

She did call several months later. I never returned the calls.

Why? Because ultimately, it does not matter. DNA is so random when you grow up black and fatherless. Strands of nothing but sexual encounters with the same breeder.    What is the use of acting as if we are characters in some sort of urban Negro rendition of Homer’s Iliad?

It will never be easy or even possible to capture what is lost when the family erodes.

No old sounds of familiarity “Daddy will get you when he gets home!!!”

Only new sounds like the ding of an Iphone when a text message arrives:

DAD: Are you here?

AFROCITY: Yes. I am on my bike. I will meet you at the finish line.”

And suddenly there I was at the race, waiting for father to come home.

An old warrior in the war on absentee dads, putting down my heavy pounds of bitterness and protective weapons to

be present at the finish line in order to begin  something we never started right in the first place.

Dad and I at the finish line. ..Finally.

Autographed Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

 

Independence Nevermore:To Live Free and Die in the Not So Great Society July 4, 2010

Artist Faith Ringold Story Quilt

On this day, our country’s 234th birthday, the fate of my fellow African Americans weighs heavy on my mind. Like most summers in Chicago, this one entered the earth with a wave of violence. Brother against brother. Murder and destruction.  My best friend who is Caucasian caused a black man to be put in jail a little over a ago.   The Taste of Chicago was in its first day, Salt and Peppa was the opening act.  People were high on the heat of summer.  My friend was walking my dog for me.  That dog being a Dalmatian, became excited by all of the strange people and noise.  Sirens and raucous late June laughter coupled with a sensitive stomach from eating too much grass at Grant Park, caused the Dalmatian to bark at the strangers as she made her way to the hi-rise doorman building.

All it took was t  “Control your dog muthafucka!”  from a black man, for an argument to ensue. This caused angry words from my friend which led to the black man threatening to shoot my friend; which led to his arrest.

Just as I was rinsing off some fresh raspberries in the kitchen sink, my friend arrived in my apartment with the panting Dalmatian.  I was planning for a bowl of ice cream but no one seemed in the mood.

“BLACK PEOPLE!!!!!”  yelled my friend.  “Stupid (expletive)….(expletive)”

He threw the police report on the kitchen counter.  I grabbed the mint green flimsy duplicate copy paper.  Crumbled up, the carbon writing had smudged. I saw the words  “gun” and “dog” very clear.  I kept squinting at the Dalmatian. She was now lying on my sofa- something that she knows not to do.  Always causing a spot of trouble, I thought.

“Do you want to hear the rest of the whole story of my night from hell?” asked my friend who was still angry and breathing heavily.

Sure I wanted to hear the details.  I wanted to know why he made the statement that he did about black people however,  the atmosphere in the room was not one of safe waters.  A recap at this point would do nothing but advance an argument on race.  An argument that began downstairs in my vestibule and would end a friendship upstairs in my kitchen.

“No,”  I said.  “I am sleepy. “

My friend was disappointed and mumbled “But-“

I walked over to the door . “Goodnight,”  I said flatly.  “We will discuss the matter later.”

"When Blacks Take Over America"- Racist Com

I closed the front door, leaving my friend standing in the hallway. Returning to the stainless steel double sink, I began to hum a tune and finished rinsing my raspberries.

All was well again.

That did not just happen I kept telling myself.

But it did and it made me feel uncomfortable.  Not because of what my friend said but rather because I understood what he said.  The blacks in Chicago were getting on my nerves too.  Killings of young people shot over stupid, petty issues like boxes of two chicken dinners.  Women —ahem, excuse me correction- I mean GIRLS with violet blue weave  hair and fake neon pink nails, pushing one baby in a stroller, another on the side of their hip, and one in her womb.

One of the obvious questions that I ask myself is when will it all end.  These are the people that my mother thought would do better than the older generations.  In 1979 these kids were our future, now our future as African Americans is what I fear.

Yes, there are many successful African Americans today. Enough to give m friend a reason not to say the things that he did about his assailant.  Enough to make me not shudder every time I see a young black mother being cursed at by black man with his baggy pants falling down his legs in the streets.   Do we not dwell on the Colin Powells, the Michael Jordans,  Oprah Winfreys, Barack Obamas?

I do- having the pleasure of being in a room filled with African Americans PhD’s.  We chat up one another in our academic discourse while munching on Carr’s  water crackers and goat cheese.   Have you read such and such?  Did you see that great documentary on…  Our lives as African Americans in that insular, far away place called… Called what?  What is that place?  Freedom? Decency?  Civilization? Acclimation?   Assimilation?  Whatever that place is, it is shielding us from the battle that rages on right outside our chamber door. Yes, I just alluded to Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven.   I loathe that poem but it was one of my mother’s favorites.   Ravens are black and cold- menace to society.

Furthermore, ravens seem to symbolize impending doom.

My heart cannot be at rest in the company of black success narratives when there is a raven sitting just outside the window.   His eyes carry the images of youth violence, rape, welfare, robbery, gang warfare.

The Raven sits at the foot of my bed, resting on my 350 thread count Tracy Guild designer sheets.  The Raven is there when I see other blacks at Whole Foods market.  Look at all of the good African Americans following Michelle Obama’s advice. Eat organic parsnips, it is better for our kids.  But what about the blacks kids who are physically fit and kill with guns and knives?  No salt and battery will not cure what ails Black America.

The Raven keeps me up some nights wondering what could have been had we not sold ourselves out to the Great Society that the Democrats promised us.

“I’ll have those niggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.”
- Lyndon B. Johnson

The Raven was at the Taste of Chicago last Thursday day night and so was I.

Firm in my belief that the festival was safe, I went to “The Taste”, purchased a roll of tickets, got guacamole and chips.  When you grow up in a place as tough as  Chicago, you acquire certain survival skills…Like sensing when people are packing and bullshit is about to start.  The Raven flew over and sat on my shoulder.  My chips looked good to him but not as good as the group of  backwards baseball capped young black thugs standing by Buckingham Fountain throwing up gang signs.

Stop being paranoid Afrocity, I thought.  Nervous white people grabbed their children. There were a lot of young black people and Mexicans out and…it was loud…and felt not quite right.  How does this collectivity of social ideologies interact? You have the people who are here for barbecued turkey legs (12 tickets) and the people who are cause trouble (ticket to jail).   Soon, my pursuit for an unbiased night of cultural interaction gave way to my instinct to survive.  Afrocity still had food tickets left but did not care as she exited Grant Park.  Once safe at home, I saw that my instincts were correct according to this article in the Chicago Tribune:

‘He just started swinging a knife,’ says boy stabbed near Taste

July 2, 2010

“He (the attacker) thought that the crowd was trying to jump on him and he just started swinging a knife,” Nuttall said of the knife-wielder.

As he was trying to pull his friend out of the way, Greenlee was stabbed in the lower back and fell over, Nuttall said. When Nuttall tried catching his toppling friend, Nuttall was stabbed in the forearm. The bleeding boys bolted for the Red Line subway station and headed south, where Greenlee’s mother was waiting for them at the 79th Street station.

From Chicago Tribune

When she saw her son and his grade school chum had been stabbed, Teresa Wilson became hysterical, more upset than either of the teenagers. Then the South Side mom became angry.

“I’m tired of Illinois, specifically of Chicago, period,” an exhausted Wilson said in a telephone interview this morning.

Wilson drove the teens to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park.

“I really (became) hysterical. Bobby was a little more calmer (than me), stronger. He was like ‘Mom, stop crying! Calm down, I’m okay,'” she recalled.

Both teens were treated and released with minor stab wounds. Wilson’s son was resting at home, recovering from a 2-inch laceration to his lower back.

Nuttall said the teens, who became friends at Joplin School on the city’s Southwest Side, had no idea who their attacker was, or what started the fight.

Relieved that their sons weren’t seriously injured, both mothers were still filled with regret.

“I shouldn’t have let me child (go),” Nuttall’s mother, Patricia said in a telephone interview. “I didn’t know it was going to be like this. This is downtown, all the security and police officers down there…I’m just glad my son didn’t get hurt worse,” she said.

Wilson, who returned to Chicago 10 years ago, said she’s seriously considering leaving again, believing the city has become overridden with crime.

“Anytime you think you’re going to an outing, you have to damn-near expect something to happen and it just makes no sense,” Wilson said.

Recognition is the first step towards healing.

You have to realize that there is a problem.

For the first time I will admit something to my readers.  While I did not vote for Barack Obama, I at least thought that the violence amongst those in the African American community would subside after his election.  I especially and desperately wanted this to be true for Chicago.  But like Edgar Allan Poe, the Raven is a realist.

Lyndon Johnson’s  “Great Society” may have equated short term gratification for blacks and long term benefits for Democrats.  But nevertheless, we signed up for it as a race.

I understand that.

Having a black president does not entail overnight brown-skin success stories.

I can understand that.

It does not eradicate every ounce of racism from country.

I can understand that…Asthe late Senator Robert Byrd so “eloquently” demonstrates here:

What I do not understand is why having a black president entailed the unraveling of any civilized state of “black Chicago.”

As I saw my people scattering about State Street with the policemen in riot gear.

I thought, is this what it has come to?  Another 1968?

Photo Chicago Tribune. Police in riot gear after Thursday's Taste of Chicago Fest

Another Los Angeles?  Is this what Crispus Attucks took a bullet for during the Boston Massacre?  So that blacks in America could go from that:

To this?

“Unfortunately the answer is YES,” quoth the Raven nevermore.

Autograph Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

 

“Brown Power”: Like Desert For Chocolate May 19, 2010

"African Tsunami" political cartoon by Alfredo Sabat of Argentina- won first prize in the United Nations Correspondent’s Association Ranan Lurie Political Cartoon Award 2006.

Such definitions as African American, Latino, Native American, Mexican American, Asian American, Hispanic- all encompass the multi-layered, mega population of America’s minorities. I failed to include women and gays because I’ve often been corrected and told the politically appropriate phrasing is: “women, gays and minorities”.
However you choose to characterize those who are not of white and men, minorities are all underdogs.

We are not the majority.

We are not privileged.

Please understand, I do not agree with the aforementioned reasoning but there are many who invest quite heavily into identity victims especially when it concerns people who are ethnically diverse and the politicians who claim they want to rescue them.

This Arizona controversy has many African Americans in the state of flux.  I am experiencing two responses.  Some blacks are ready to fight against the alleged racial profiling contained in the Arizona immigration reform law.  Others are unapologetic and rather apathetic concerning the fate of illegal immigrants.

“They are taking jobs from us,”  said one African American acquaintance of mine. “They outnumber us now and really many of them are just as racists as whites.”

Should African Americans be concerned about the Arizona law which enforces our federal law to protect its borders and clamp down on illegal immigration?

From this article in the Black Agenda Report:

Revisiting the Immigration Reform Debate: An African American Perspective
by Dr. Ron Daniels
Black Power will necessarily be affected by Brown Power.”
The anti-immigration law passed by the Arizona legislature, which essentially legalizes racial profiling of Latinos, has reignited the national debate over what to do about millions of undocumented people, the vast majority of whom entered through America’s porous southwestern borders. Despite the progressive stance of African American civil rights/human rights and political leaders on this issue, if you tune in to Black talk radio, one gets a sense that large numbers of Blacks are intensely opposed to granting legal status to the undocumented. This is an interesting phenomenon because in general Black people tend to advocate for the oppressed, particularly people of color. In this instance there appears to be a disconnect between Black leaders and a substantial segment of their constituency. I suspect this is because, in the legitimate quest to remain the “conscience of the nation” on matters of injustice to human beings, Black leaders reflexively and to a degree uncritically embrace a pro-legalization stance for the undocumented. The problem with this posture is that it does not take into account the serious concerns expressed by many Blacks on this complex issue.

For the record, I am absolutely in favor of fair, equitable and just immigration reform. And, as Africans in America, we certainly cannot accept the racial, ethnic or religious profiling of any group under any circumstances. So, I am totally opposed to the Arizona law – which should be rescinded or repealed immediately.

La Gran Tenochtitlán, 1945, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City by Diego Rivera

You see, I am not certain that I agree with Dr. Daniels.   I do not have a problem with the Arizona law because it only enforces what is already allowed by federal law.  If you are stopped for let’s say a traffic violation, even if you were a Caucasian, you would have to show some proof of identification.  Arizona is having huge problems with the lack of border security, I find it reasonable that the state is asserting its right to alleviate the problem.

Also, what is this “brown power”?  I assume that Dr. Daniels is referring to blacks and Latinos.  Are Middle Easterners included in the “brown power” movement?

Dr. Daniels continues:

...Despite the successes of the Black freedom struggle, large numbers of Black people are still confined to the bottom rungs of the social-economic ladder. In large measure this is because racism is alive and well — and Blacks are the least preferred people of color minority in this country. “If you’re White, you’re alright, Yellow mellow, Brown stick around but Black get back” is still a reality when it comes to the struggle for opportunity in this country. Therefore, Blacks are understandably nervous about anything that threatens to undermine our fragile social-economic and political gains, particularly when vast numbers of our people are still locked out and left out. To suggest that somehow millions of undocumented people have no impact on the social-economic and political standing of African Americans runs counter to what millions of our people see and experience in their daily lives.

Hmmm, do African Americans feel threatened by Latinos?

Why should we be? Aren’t we all on Underdog Island, Brown Island, Minority Island?

Or are Americans feeling threatened by people who are not Americans exhausting our resources?

Liberals believe that minority status is tracked back to antecedents of any American wrong doing canonized as exploitation of those who are somehow lesser than. Images of slave ships, shackles, internment camps, women’s suffrage, five and dime counter sit-ins, migrant workers all follow the American cookie cutter of the downtrodden minority figure.

Michael Tropea/National Museum of Mexican Art

But does one size necessarily fit all when it comes the the liberal victim caste system?

At a fairly young age I learned the answer.

When I was nine-years old, I was living in the North Lawndale section of Chicago.  My Catholic school was entirely African American as far as the students were concerned. Little fourth grade brown legs with knees barely covered by plaid skirts bought during the third grade.

The nuns and priests were all white. Old, wrinkled and white.  We all made quite a meeting of the minds.  Nubby pink hands twisting our black cheeks whenever we stepped out of line.  At times the nuns could be sort of maternalistic;  sparring the rod if they saw that your legs were covered in scabs from a whooping you received at home.

Those women in habits who swore there lives to God, were mostly of Czechoslovakian and Polish descent.  Sister Mary Ann who had been at the convent since the neighborhood was predominantly a Jewish ghetto,  and now since the mid 1950’s a black ghetto swayed back and forth from disdain to tolerance for her black students.  But if you were of the lighter persuasion say like my classmate Paulina, then Sister Mary Ann liked you.

Paulina was Mexican and the only person in my class who was not black.  All of the boys crushed on her.  They would chase her around the school yard just to grab at her long thick ponytails.  We, the common brown girls, were terribly jealous of her.

“Her face is not that pretty,” we would whisper during mass as Paulina giggled and squealed.

She passed notes back and forth with drooling little wolves like Thomas White that I had a terrible crush on. The nuns never caught Paulina.  She could do no wrong. If it were one of us, we would be in the corner faster than you can say teacher’s pet.

I became obsessed with the transfer from Immaculate.  This was my turf since the first grade. I was at the top of the class academically and Paulina was at the bottom.  So why does Tommy like her? He once walked me home faithfully everyday.  He would even take the long way when he could have chosen a shortcut through the vacant lots. Now he won’t  save his seat for me during lunch and ignores me.  What gives?

“She is not black.”  See I could always count on my mother to give me a great biased answer. “Black boys like white women anytime they can get one.”

“But she is not white. She is Spanish and lives on 26th street,” I corrected mother. ” She is like us – not a white person.”

“But she will be treated like a white person before you will ever be.”  she warned. ” The closer you look like a white person, the more you will be able to pretend to be one of them. “

"Portrait of Mrs. Natasha Gelman" by Diego Rivera, 1943

Great, I am doomed, I thought.  My hair was not straight like Paulina’s.  I had nothing going for myself except my good grades. That is the only reason why the nuns did not hit me as much as the others, because I did my best in school and won competitions.  Despite my brains, I am still gonna be alone when I grow up with no man in the house like my mother. All because I am not light-skinned. Oh no.

“Just like Lena Horn,”  Miss Mother lectured. ” If you are yellow skinned, whites love you.  Back in the 50’s some could pass for white. They would work in jobs where no one knew they were black.  At night they would take the train home long after everyone was gone…They did not want anyone to know that their family was black.”

“Can cousin Latrina pass for white?”  I asked.  Latrina was my mother’s sister’s youngest daughter. She was quite light complexioned, or “high yella” as grandmother would say. Latrina was a favorite among the family and like Paulina, could do no wrong. I was beginning to see a pattern here.

Mother shook her head.  Latrina had light skin but Negro features. ” Her nose bridge is too wide,” she surmised. Latrina was not a good candidate for passing.  “You must look like Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, be mixed with black and Puerto Rican.”

Certain that I was as black as a Hershey’s candy bar, I looked in the mirror.  I was not too dark, sort of orange-ish brown. “Could I ever pass you think momma?”  I asked as I pulled at to corners of my eyes to look Asian. “Even for a Mexican or Puerto Rican

Mother laughed out loud.  “No, you are a nice tan color. You know when you were born, you were very light.  So light that they mistook you for a Puerto Rican.”

“What happen to me?”

“You got darker and darker.”

“Oh.”

From that point on, I decided to make Paulina my friend. Perhaps if she taught me Spanish, I could help her with her reading.  Seems fair enough. I can help her get better grades. In return she can help me seem more exotic and not just plain ol’ African American.

But there was a problem that I did not anticipate.  Something that mother hinted at but I did not understand or maybe I did not want to understand.  In my attempt to establish a friendship with Paulina, she made it obvious to me that while we were both not white, there was a minority totem pole. Guess what my position was on the pole?

“Don’t put your hands on my book,” Paulina said slapping my hand.  Our reading books all had numbers on the spine for identification. Paulina’s was #25.  I was only handing it to her so she would not have to reach on the book cart for it.  “You are all dirty and thieves.”

Immediate hurt and shock kept an emotionally bruised Afrocity standing in front of the book cart.  Did she just say I was dirty?  She is the one whose uniform collar had a black ring around it.   Thieves?  At least we don’t have as many kids as the Spanish people do. And they called them greasers like in West Side Story.

By afternoon, Paulina was my arch enemy.  I told the others what she said to me, knowing that some of the larger girls were just itching to pick a fight with her.

“She ain’t white,” said one classmate. “Mexicans stink anyway and they have roaches.”

Comic book featuring Memín Pinguín a character from Mexico. Created by Yolanda Vargas Dulché, popular during the 1940's

“The nuns only like Mexicans because they have so many kids because you can’t take the pill if your are Catholic and Mexicans are the only ones who listen to them,” said another classmate.

“I will mess her pretty face up to look like a taco…I wish she would say some shit like that to me,”

“They swim in the water on their backs to get here. That is why they call them wetbacks.”

” She had better take her Chico and the Man ass back to Me-hee-ko”

For days, tensions were high.  Paulina noticed that she was being stalked.  Her lunch tray would suddenly end up on the floor. “Ooops, did I do that?” from a snickering black classmate.

Reading Book #25 went missing.   “Maybe mi madre took it,” the students laughed. “Or her pet goat ate it like Julio’s on Sanford and Son.”

“CHILDREN!!!!”  yelled Sister Mary Ann.

Knowing that my spilling the beans about Paulina’s remark to me caused all of this sudden Paulina-cott,  I felt guilty.  Now there was no stopping it.   With the nuns in place, maybe it would die down.  Paulina’s mother did not want to take that chance, especially after her daughter was shoved several times in the bathroom.  They dared her to push back.

She did not.

Within a month. Paulina had been withdrawn and transferred back to a Catholic school in the Latino neighborhood near California Avenue.

None of us were white.  None of us were privileged or rich. But that did not keep us from talking down to one another. Later, I would learn that Paulina ended up in our school because the parochial schools in the black neighborhoods were cheaper than the ones in her own. Her father had left her mother. It was difficult for the family to pay Paulina’s tuition. This may have explained why Paulina felt she was above us because at one time perhaps she was- at least financially.  Now after the way we treated her, I can imagine the ways in which we affirmed her negative opinion of black people.

"Black Spanish Family" by Alice Neel

There was nothing I could do.  It was over. The wicked princess from 26th Street was gone. My classroom was back to normal.

A sea of chocolate and caramel. Fudge and cinnamon.  The boys began to chase us again. The white nun lorded over us as we learned about diphthongs and silent “e”.    One day, I would take my allowance and purchase a hula hoop and small book from Wool-worth’s  entitled “Say it in Spanish“.   It contained pictures of fruits and vegetables, cars, people, and animals with the Spanish words for them in bold black letters.

Mother looked at the book with not so approving eyes ” Why would you want to buy that? They should be reading “Say it in English

I shrugged my shoulders and sat at the bus stop reading the book, mouthing the words as we waited for the #52 Pulaski.  I just simply wanted to understand what the Spanish people were saying- that’s all. There was no harm in that.

Autographed Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

 

Where the White Things Are May 4, 2010

From opposite sides of a Chicago bus route, one can see two very different Americas.  One side of the route ends in the north side “Gold Coast” Neighborhood. Home to the city’s elite, the Latin School, the Chicago History Museum.  The other ends on the west side.

As I sat watching the #72 North Avenue bus parked outside the window yesterday, I was overcome by memories of my mother- again.

It was the bus route that brought me from the ghetto to the peaceful lakeside where I could forget I was a black girl who lived in a neighborhood where children did not know their fathers.  I would watch white moms and dads pushing children in strollers, buying cotton candy and wonder what life was like for them when they left the park.  At the end of the day, mother and I would ride the #72 back home alone. Just a single mother and her child.  I would sit in the front seat next to the driver.  “Someday I will live and work here”, I told mother. “…where the white things are.”

“What are white things?” she asked.

“White people with white jobs and money. Nice apartments, museums. I want a white life.”

This momentary glimpse into the past took my mind off the speaker in the seminar I was attending.  I did not hear him. I only saw the fountain and the #72 bus  sitting at North Ave. and Clark, waiting to take mother and I back home.   My lip curled when I knew I was back in the present. She was now dead and I was sitting here in this room.  The white life.  The job, the apartment, the friends and I had somehow left her behind to take the #72 bus home.  This time without her daughter.  My brown limbs could not move to join her. Here, the bus –an innocent bus waiting in the layover circle became a distinct vehicle for my guilt and shame at never confronting my mother about doing something about her life during her final years.  I let her stay on the bus while I got off.

Jacob Lawrence The Seamstress, 1946

Although I intervened on several occasions, I was rebuffed and told “You do not understand what it is like to be really black now that you are educated,”  she told me one day in the year 2005.  “Like that stupid Condeleeza Rice and Colin Powell,when blacks get up- they get uppity…They don’t want to wash clothes by hand anymore or drive buses. Then they join the Republican Party and think they are white people. they black fades from their skin more and more each day…Colin Powell don’t look black anymore than Strom Thurmond.”

To appease her I smiled a bit.

“He don’t!” she continued throwing her hand. “Neither does his wife. People forget who they are and where they’ve been.  You get a nice car and don’t realize you are black until someone puts sugar in the engine and you can’t drive anywhere because your engine is all messed up.”

According to ghetto urban legend, sugar in the gas tank was a trick often played in inner city neighborhoods during the 1970’s. A person, usually a Black or Latino man would buy a nice car, say a shiny long Cadillac with white leather interior.  Like many people who are proud of new material possessions, the owner of the  car would drive around and around the same block over and over again so his neighbors could see his new found piece of colored American pie.  A car is not the whole pie mind you; just a tiny sliver. But when the highlight of your life hinges on winning the lottery or surviving an accident at the drill bit plant during third shift, you will settle for the sliver.

The sistas would hang around the car as the doting owner massages it with car wax.  By the end of the calendar year, the car was responsible for at least three separate pregnancies. Unfortunately, then as nowadays when you have a new iPad, people get jealous.  Things that you are enamored with should stay in your pockets and inside the garage.   Bruised manhood is the only remedy for a braggart Cadillac owner who gets too much attention from the ladies.  His reward.  Homespun 100% green with envy Dominic sugar poured in the gas tank.   The ghetto moral: Forget who you are and we will mess up yo’ car.

The modern day equivalent of my mother’s sentiment about uppity and forgetful Black people was expressed by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) when she made a derogatory reference to Supreme Court Justice,  Clarence Thomas during a recent public appearance.

All of these stubborn, rigid ideas on blackness have in a sense collectively poured sugar in African American identity of Clarence Thomas and other prominent conservatives of color.  Amongst liberals, Clarence will never be allowed to ride the bus back home. He lives where the white things are. Banished in Black history to the prison of collective amnesia and ridicule.

Jacob-Lawrence, Tousaint-et-Ennery 1989

The same fate obviously will apply to Republican National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele.

From this article in the Wall Street Journal

Steele Says He Finally Met Obama

May 1, 2010

By John D. McKinnon and Susan Davis

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said he finally got to meet President Barack Obama on Saturday, at a VIP reception at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. He got his picture taken with Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, as celebrities such as Alec Baldwin milled around.

President Barack Obama makes humorous remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, at the Washington Hilton Hotel, Saturday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

At last year’s dinner, Obama poked fun at the slightly nerdy Steele and his sometimes awkward attempts to seem cool.

“Michael Steele is in the house tonight. Or as he would say, in the `heezy,’” Obama said last year. “Wassup,” he added, making a hip-hop-style hand gesture. “Michael, for the last time, the Republican Party does not qualify for a bailout. Rush Limbaugh does not count as a troubled asset, I’m sorry.” Steele just stood in the audience, laughing, and clapped his hands.

A few days later on NBC’s Meet the Press, Steele insisted there were no hard feelings.
“That was just good love between two brothers,” he said.

UPDATE: In his remarks to the crowd, Obama gave a shoutout to Steele, calling him “Notorious G.O.P.”

Romare Bearden, 110St. Harlem Blues

Engaging with the facts surrounding the history Democratic Party have never been easy for my fellow African Americans.  Did my mother ever know that the Republican party was the true anti-slavery party? I doubt it.  I never knew until I reached college.  Perhaps I needed the comedic honesty of African American conservatives such as AlfonZo Rachel aka ZoNation to show me the truth as he does in his latest piece on the history of Blacks and the Democrats.


In 1992, there was no ZoNation or Afrocity.  The Democrats were eternal champions of brown skin and equality.  There was no other side to the historical coin. Until I met a conservative of color, some old Republican woman– an outspoken member of a Houston based Republican women’s group. She found me in the crowd one day as I proudly campaigned for Bill Clinton. I would later meet that same woman in 1995 at an event honoring Laura Bush. The old woman offered the truth but I never explored the truth any further. The old woman had to be delusional. Everything she said went against everything my mother told me.  I did not want to know the truth about the Democratic Party nor did I want to understand why Ms. Condi Rice or Mr. Thomas would be proud Republicans. Dining and voting for the enemy.  How could such an animal even exist?

Jacob Lawrence, "Tombstones"

But today, I am the animal my mother and Eleanor Holmes Norton spoke of.  Through my conservative beliefs, I am no longer on the #72 riding home with mother to eat a dinner of breaded sandwich steak, canned peas  and instant potatoes purchased with colored money.  The tumbler of Kool Aid still sits at the table waiting for my former liberal self to return home.  But I can’t because as far as they are concerned I am lost as a Black woman.

I am where the white things are.

Autographed Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

Steele Says He Finally Met Obama

 

Sunday Soliloquy: The Nanny State Diaries May 2, 2010

A key argument advanced by my liberal friends is that Afrocity’s new found conservative voice is simply a phase.

Now that the “phase” has been going on for nearly two years, attempts to bring me back to the land of ass have been occurring more frequently.   This month alone I have been treated to at least four lunches where portraits of the “Chosen One” adorn the restaurant as I slowly sip my soup.  Conversations somehow digress from living room decor and skinny jeans to why Obama is making such progress as our president.   Depending on my mood and how much I value my friendship with the person, I either eat and smile silently with a few nods peppered here and there  OR  I softly offer my dissent.  Aside from the question of whether or not Obama has really improved the lives of Americans, in particular those who reside in Chicago there is no doubt that his supporters are begging to realize that he is NOT the greatest thing since Wonder Bread.

“Well hopefully, if Obama leaves office in 2017…”

(Snicker) Oooo, that was funny!

One disturbing confession was several friends of color admitting that they were Hillary Clinton fans until Obama challenged her during the Democratic Primary.

“I loved Hillary,”  one friend said. “In college I was in her fan club.  I voted for her as senator.”

Then comes the 10 months pregnant pause.  Friend picks at the Cobb Salad while never looking me in the eye.

“Then I heard Obama at a rally and just knew I had to vote for him,” she says with a huge toothy smile.

Curious and saddened,  I always have to press the matter and shoot back with “Why? What was it that made you turn your back–errr, um I mean change your mind and support Obama?”

“Well he was so inspiring and he just wanted to do everything to change our world.”

“And Hillary did not?”  I asked with a raised eyebrow.

Pause comes again. Friend eats more salad…”No,” crunching on lettuce while speaking. ” You know [Bill] Clinton  was da man!!  He was a superstar in my book but when Obama came it made me go WHOA.”

Well of course you went WHOA. You were stepping in Obama’s bullshit.  That is what I wanted to say and here is where I gets frustrated and cannot continue the conversation. Just tell the truth you know.  We are all black. Just say you felt conflicted because Obama was a black man.   My friend went into some story about John Lewis and how he actually cried because he could not choose between Hillary and Obama.  She  mentioned other prominent African Americans who were caught in the “Great Migration” from Clinton to Obama.  The blacks who chose to remain with Hillary were characterized as though we were some sort of maimed donkey who could not get up on all fours .  Something held us back.  Our allegiance was to a white family over this great black hope.  Driving Miss Hillary Daisy.

As she was speaking,  I looked outside the restaurant window.  There were some African American males standing on the street corner, pants falling down past their behinds.  Should be in school, I thought.  An image of Cynia Cole, a little 20 month old baby that was killed recently by a bullet meant for her father intruded into my mind.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Charges filed in shooting death of 20-month-old

April 24, 2010

A 21-year-old man has been charged with killing a 20-month-old girl sitting in a car Wednesday night with her father, who police said was the intended target.

Danzeal Finley, of the 700 block of East 92nd Street, was charged with murdering Cynia Cole, who was shot in the head about 11 p.m. Wednesday on the 600 block of East 92nd Place in the Burnside neighborhood. Cynia was sitting in the rear seat of the car with her father, Jerome Hendricks, and her two young sisters.

Photo from Chicago Tribune showing Cynia Cole, a 20 month old victim of relentless violence in Chicago.

Finley was ordered held without bond by judge Adam Bourgeois today. His next court date is Monday.

Finley turned himself in to police Thursday after Alberta Cole, the girl’s mother, said she recognized him and told police, who put out an alert for Finley. Finley was accompanied by Rev. James Meeks after Finley’s mother called the minister and state senator to make sure her son would be treated safely…

The night of the shooting, Hendricks, Cole and and their family — Cynia, known as Coco; her sisters Janiya, 4, and Amazing, 8 months, were on their way to the girls’ grandmother’s house after visiting Coco’s aunt when they stopped by a neighborhood house to buy some cigarettes, Hendricks said.

Cole waited on the porch for someone to open the door when she said a hooded gunman came running out of a gangway and  began firing at the car. She said she eased back onto the porch so the gunman wouldn’t know she was there, and when his hood fell recognized Finley from the neighborhood.

After the shooting, Hendricks took the girl out of her car seat and held her head in his arm as drove to his mother’s home around the corner. Once there, his mother, Cynthia Lyons, a nurse, applied pressure to the wound behind the girl’s ear until an ambulance arrived and took her to Comer Children’s Hospital, where she later died.

How was I to see the Obama “hopium” machine playing a role in the life of Cynia Cole?  Chicago is in the state of chaos. National Guards have been one possible solution as we are in fact a youth violence war zone.  Suddenly, the Obama outsider art paintings in the restaurant sickened me.  This man used these people but you know what?  They wanted to be used. All I ever heard about from my friends and family  was what “Obama will do for black people”.   “Now we will get what we deserve…our president is black like us. He knows what it is like to be down and black.”

Really? Living in Hawaii, attending private schools, law school at Harvard.  Hanging out in Indonesia. Sure, Obama really knows what it is like to be down and black because his experience so mirrors that of  those in inner-city Chicago.

If you say so bruthas and sistas.

This is the part where I attempt to elevate the discussion to a new entirely new level. One where our blackness does not play into our voting choices.”I supported Hillary Clinton in the primary,”  I admitted with a straight but thoughtful face. ” She was a candidate that reflected my values and that is how I voted.  It is not about what a candidate can do for me, not as a black person or a woman…The government should not have to do anything for us. We do for ourselves…That is why I am a conservative now.”

My friend continued to enjoy her salad.  I said my “peace”  (snark) but still felt somehow defeated.  Any effort expended here was a waste.  The historic moment was a good selling point for Barack Obama and it worked.  It cheated Hillary Clinton out of a nomination.  It cheated Sarah Palin out of becoming Vice President. Both  good women.  Both good people.  The historic moment did not give baby Cynia Cole a life and iconic moments of her own making.  She would never live to see a woman take oath of office.  She would never live to be a woman.

We were all bound and raped by the considerations of race, gender, and historic moments.  What some Democrats have already noted in respect to Obama’s broken promises, are played out in Chicago’s streets as an African American saga.  How does one get over being raped?  Again the dream deferred simply explodes.  It gets angry and apparently it kills.

Autographed Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

 

Sunday Soliloquy: Blackwashing An American Classic April 25, 2010

From Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, illustrations by Edward W. Kemble

The library books I wanted to check out were heavy in my arms.  Stacked up so high that I could hardly see over the top of them.  Thankfully, I had the smarts to tuck my library card in my mouth before I picked up the books.  This would allow the librarian easy access without my having to dig through the pockets of my Toughskins jeans.  I was a young girl of nine and at the time books were my only source of adventure.  When school let out for the summer all I had was that library. But this summer would be different.  In a month, I would be going to visit my big military careered brother who was stationed in Germany. As the librarian counted my books, I smiled at the Berlitz book on Germany.

Everything was going fine until my mother who emerged from the ladies room, decided to come over to the checkout desk and act parental.  Normally she never cared about what I read.   I would bounce from Henry Higgins to Harold Robbins and she never cared much.  Really, if I could count how many times a librarian raised an eyebrow at young Afrocity’s choice of reading material it would be more than my ten fingers and toes.   I had free run of the publishing world until this summer day…. As I said, everything was proceeding to plan until my mother began inspecting the spine titles of the stack of books that the librarian had already due date stamped.  Towards the middle of the stack, she winced and pulled a green cloth bound book out so fast that it did not disturb the stacks neat straight lines.

“She won’t be taking this…discharge it.”

Oddly, the librarian looked at me for approval.

I shook my head thinking mother must have believed I would not be able to read the book in time before my trip to Germany, then the book would sit in my bedroom overdue. She would have to tote the book back for me… “I promise I will read it before I go,”  I protested. ” The movie is coming on Family Classics on Sunday. I want to read the book first-“

Mother pursed her lips and glanced at me crossly “You will never read this book,” she ordered. ” This book makes fun of black people. It has a slave in it who is an Uncle Tom. He follows a piece of white trash name Huckleberry Finn.  Huck treats him like an animal.”

Mother’s voice was not loud but audible to the librarian who had stopped mid air with the date due stamp in her hand.

“You will never read anything by Mark Twain,” she continued. “Not in school. Not from the library. You will never see movies about Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer.”

A big gulp was in my throat, so I said something manipulative to placate her.  Even then I always felt I was smarter than she.  I read a lot more than she did.  She let me see Roots and it had slaves in it too.  She let me watch Bing Crosby movies and she said he was a racist…And what about Rochester on the Jack Benny Show…Mother always laughed at him and to me he looked like a slave… Besides we trusted  Frazier Thomas.

But it is on Family Classics Frazier Thomas said it is a classic that all kids should read-”  Yep that was my line of defense and all mom’s trusted Fraizer Thomas .

Frazier Thomas  is the local WGN Chicago guy with the mellow voice and pretty books in his library. He taught me about Swiss Family Robinson, Black Beauty and Pippa Longstocking.  Now he wants to teach me about Huckleberry Finn and mother is saying I cannot check out the book or see the movie on Sunday and I never miss an episode of Family Classics.

“Frazier Thomas is a white man who reads to white kids.”  Mother fired back. “You think he would have you at his house. Do you think he is reading to you?  Has he ever read a book about a black family? “

I shrugged my shoulders. The honest answer would have been no but I did not want her to be right.

“…and what about that movie we saw at the theater that you hated?” she asked.  “the one with the black man that was on that island with the prejudiced old white man?”

Mother was referring to a Disney movie that we saw the week previous to my summer recess.  It was about Robinson Crusoe and a black guy named Friday.  To my nine year old eyes, the movie was boring and the white man appeared to be very mean to the black man.  I did not like the movie and was really there for second offering of the double feature-  The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again.

“So the book is boring?” I asked.

Mother knowing that I hated with a passion anything that is boring, especially books and movies answered, “Yes it is a very boring book by someone who wants you to feel inferior to white people. It is about white southern trash like the people in Roots. What did I tell you about people in the South?”

I twisted my lip and looked down at the floor.  One of my friends in school was from Mississippi and I liked her.

“What did we say about southerners Afrocity?”

“That they are ignorant and have the worst white people. John F. Kennedy is dead because of them. They shot Martin Luther King. “

I nodded and answered in a defeated tone “I know.”

The Librarian had ignored the line of people wanting to check out books behind us until one impatient young woman purposefully cleared her throat.  Why she decided to butt into my mother’s lecture is beyond me but it was not a smart idea.   “Miss, may I suggest that you consult your daughter’s Chicago Public School principal.  Huckleberry Finn is taught in many schools and teachers are trained-“

Uh-oh, I thought.  At my age I knew what to expect from my mother.  If there was one thing she did not tolerate, it was well meaning white people telling black people how to raise her children.  Yes we were on welfare but that did not give the the right to parent.

Mother stepped closer to the check out desk.  This all struck me as a when shit hits the fan moment.  I was embarrassed already, now I was certain that I would be banned from the library for ever.

“First of all,” she started. ” Call me Ms. How the hell do you know if I am married or not.  Second, my daughter does not attend Chicago Public School, she is in a private Catholic School so your assumption about all black kids and the schools they go to is wrong. I do not give a damn about what my daughter reads as long as it is not something that makes blacks look like fools. “

The green eyed, blond librarian blinked- a lot. She looked like a blond version of Rhoda from the Mary Tyler Moore show. Somehow I knew she was a good person. I felt sorry for her and this was all of my fault. I should have checked out sooner so Ms. Mother would not have known what I had decided to borrow. Then the books would have been all safe and uncensored in my seersucker book satchel.

Mother took the copy of Huckleberry Finn, flipped through a few pages and found a page she wanted the librarian to see.

“What is this word?” she asked the librarian.

I stood at the desk on my tippy toes hoping to see what she was pointing to on the page.  I saw an illustration of a black man standing in what looked like grass but I could not see the words.

When the librarian looked at the page, she nodded.  “I know what the word is  and I know why you would be upset at the author for using it-“

“Over and over again. Page after page,”  Mother interrupted.

“But it is considered an American classic and my son has read-“

“Does your son look like my daughter?”  On the hostile black woman meter, my mother was about heated seven by this point. “Would you want your son to read a book that called his people Polaks? You are Polish right? “

The librarian chose not to answer. Instead she asked ” Ms. will you be taking your daughters remaining selections?”

Mother browsed my other books for suspect titles.  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was chucked along with a cook book I had chosen about German food. Mother discouraged me from getting cookbooks because they usually led to me begging her to buy some expensive ingredients so I could mess up her clean kitchen and waste our food stamps.

“You will eat plenty of German food while you are in Germany,” she said.

Finding finally a light note to grab on to, the librarian continued stamping my remaining books. Looking at me and me only as if to make my mother disappear she smiled and asked “Are you going to Germany?”

My mother was still closely watching this whole book check out affair and I was frankly afraid to say anything for fear that mother would get reactivated.  My nod was covering my enthusiasm to tell someone, anyone about my upcoming trip.

Well you have a good time…Okay?”  she pushed the pile of now fully stamped books towards me.  I loaded them in my bag. Mother escorted me out of the building.  As we walked to our bus stop our conversation was restrained.  She only asked me if I wanted to stop off to get some orange Push-up sherbet ice cream treats  from the store. Mother was like that. She would talk up a storm in public sometimes then when you thought she’d let me hear it in private- suddenly silence.

I would never watch the Huckleberry Finn movie on Family Classics that upcoming Sunday.  Frazier Thomas had lost all credibility in my household.

I would also never ever read a book by Mark Twain at all.   Mother and I never spoke of the event again.  Lucky for me, Twain was never assigned in my literature course in high school or college.  I really never thought about it again until the other day when I crossed paths with this piece in the Atlantic.

When Great Art Happens to Bad People

Apr 24 2010

By Erik Tarloff

Every few years, it makes the papers: somebody opposes the teaching of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in some high school, or even wants it banned from the local library. The reason, of course, is the book’s frequent use of the word “nigger” (over 200 occurrences, according to people who count such things). When one such incident made a splash sometime in the ’90s, and the minister who was leading the crusade made a large number of appearances on TV and radio, my friend Wendy Lesser, a distinguished literary critic and editor, protested to me, “But he’s missing the whole point!”

She was right, of course. To seize on a single word, even a single word reiterated 200-plus times, without regard to its context or purpose represents a misreading that seems almost willful. But to my mind, defending the teaching of the book on those grounds, while justified on the merits, also misses the whole point, or at least concedes far too much. Because, what if the protest didn’t in fact miss the point? What if Huckleberry Finn actually were a racist book, rather than a non-racist book that permits its characters to speak in an argot appropriate to their time and circumstance? Would the banning then be justified?

Jims Coat of Arms

Thanks to the Atlantic, my memory was jarred.   I paced through the den of my apartment and stood in front of my two large bookshelves.  My deceased mother’s ashes were in a box nearby.  Thoughtfully looking over my library, I found many books that my mother would object to.  Glenn Beck’s A Christmas SweaterFleeced by Dick Morris.   My library is full of a conservative’s arsenal against liberal thought, against welfare, affirmative action…against phony racism.

Rare books, pretty books, cookbooks everything seemed to be there on my shelves.  However, something was missing.  I think it may be time for Afrocity to read something by Mark Twain and though I have the money to buy the book…I think instead I should go to my local library…and check it out for myself.

Autographed Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

 

 
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