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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,

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

 

 
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