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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,


Steele Says He Finally Met Obama


13 Responses to “Where the White Things Are”

  1. plaintain1 Says:

    Very interesting article. Many years, I met a White spiritualist who once predicted for me that I would live a ‘white life’. Years later, I’m doing exactly that. I suppose if I’m really honest about it, somewhere deep in my mind, I’ve always wanted that: riding on the 73 bus, which passes through a middle class area, where the front doors are highly polished, the latest car beams in the drive way and the nearest high street are full of independent shops. There is a part of me where I can feel proud that my kids have a successful father, that there are receiving good education and that we live a lifestyle that is not as ostentatious as the ‘middle class’ black women you see on the Bravo series – Real Housewives in Atlanta.

    You seem comfortable and honest about your situation. For me, it is an ongoing dilemma. On the one hand, I love what I have but on the other hand I hate the fact that I’m surrounded by family members, distant relations and friends etc who have no choice but give in their latent jealousies. They find it shocking that I have what I have and the question that seems to bug them is not why it happened but how it happened! As much I live this ‘white life’, I still love all things ‘black’ but in order to blend in it is a case of having to be humble in their presence and never reminding people of what they don’t have.

    The other thing that spiritualist warned me of is that I should be aware that I’m blessed, if I don’t use my position positively or use it knock those already down, then I’ll lose all what I have. It’s a balancing act and the more you add to what you already have, the more difficult it can be.

    I thank you for being honest and writing this article. I feel there are lots of us out there but we understand what we carry and what it means to the black community, and therefore choose to be quiet.

  2. Consertive Jewish Man Says:

    Why do liberals claim to be progressive but are such bigots especially when it comes to conservatives who are black, gay or Jewish? Democrats are no longer the party of FDR, that ended when they elected a race divider like Obama. Now they are using illegal immigration as a way to give amnesty and create more votes for their party of whiners and tax dodgers.

    Afrocity we are fighting a war against a party that historically feeds like a tumor on the despair of others. Democrats are no friend to Israel. Obama does not give a damn about Jews anymore than he does Hispanics and blacks.

    I wish Jews would wake up as you do the black people. Too bad the white guilty continue to help Democrats by voting and naively believing that these con-artists like Harry Reid and Pelosi are grassroots people who care about minorities. Unions are full of liberal racists anti-Semitic thugs. These are the people who are Democrats now.

  3. manbearpig68 Says:

    Great post! The ironic thing is that a lot blacks that live the “white life” and are conservative make more sense about black issues and care more about black history than others that supposedly stay in touch with and live the”black” life.

  4. Formercorpsman Says:

    You have become you. There is only one person who needs to find acceptance in that.

    You write, and another link in the chain is gone.

    Keep writing. GB.

  5. afrocity Says:

    Great video on Black Tea Partiers

    • afrocity Says:

      I was just informed that the man on the video 4:05 was exposed as a Tea Party infiltrator and to notice the ‘infowars'(spit) supporter behind him.

  6. Consertive Jewish Man Says:

    Bill Randall a Afro-American conservative is a great candidate running for congress in North Carolina.

  7. yttik Says:

    Powerful writing, Afrocity.

    Some of us children of liberalism grew up with similar ideas. We didn’t call it “where the white things are,” we called it the man, the system, capitalism. Joining it was selling out. Don’t go work for the man, don’t waste your money on an education. “They” will just take it all away, kind of like your sugar in the gas tank story. To this day I keep expecting “them” to show up and take it all away.

  8. Truth For America Says:

    Great post Afro. They kicked you off the bus because you were no longer useful to them. Get too smart or make too much money will make people wake up when they see that the Dems want to take your money. Democrats were the party that wanted to keep minorities enslaved. They do so now by giving minorities just enough help to coast along but never enough to make any real difference. Amnesty for the illegals is their next step. 30 million liberal voters will be added for Obama in 2012 if they get their way. Dems will not get jobs for these people or stop the crimes they commit. It is the continuance of victimization politics. Puerto Rico has some interesting controversy about statehood.

  9. yttik Says:

    “Among the many reverberations of President Obama’s election, here is one he probably never anticipated: at least 32 African-Americans are running for Congress this year as Republicans, the biggest surge since Reconstruction, according to party officials.”

  10. Holly Says:

    “Where the white things are.” I just love that.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the education system actually taught factual history?

    For some reason your story reminded me of my ex-girlfriend who is Asian. Her and I would be talking about something and she would say, “You Americans….” I would look at her and cock my head out of confusion and say, “But, you are an American.” She would say, “Oh, I know, but, you know, you Americans….” Head still cocked, “Umm…I don’t understand.” Her getting frustrated, “you know, white people.” At this point I would laugh and say that an American is more than a skin color or ethnicity, it’s an idea that welcomes everyone.

    I noticed when I was around her family and friends, all Asian, that they all had the same mindset. I finally asked her about it and she told me that they all consider themselves Americans, but that when their families came to the United States, her mother came in 1980, that they strove to emulate the success of white Americans. A little part of me thought that it was cute, but another part of me was sad. I never want someone to believe that success comes in color. As a young white woman I never thought about success in America in terms of color; I simply saw it as the pursuit of the American Dream.

    You should never apologize for pursuing your American Dream. I’m glad that you have found it.

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