So you’re just sitting around being black, right? And you see that black guy who’s president running for reelection and you think hey, I’m black too. I support this guy, I like what he says, I’m down with his policies, and best of all he’s like, black, right? Got himself a black wife, couple black kids, it’s all black up in the White House. And then you snort. Because you are so very smart and that was funny. But then, you start to think. Say, bruh, I’m still out of work. I’m still behind on my bills. I still have no girlfriend and I’m back in my mama’s basement but my mama makes the best pancakes so, um, win. But. I can’t bring the ladies into my mama’s basement because that’s rude. I need my own place. I need a job and some cash and a car because classy ladies don’t like Metro (or 7-11 big bites for dinner (I should reevaluate these ladies, though, because COME ON BIG BITES IS THE BIZZOMB, YO.)) My point is, I voted for you. I am the reason you get to stay in that there house and now I want my due.
You know. You owe me. You owe all of us. The black people. The black people rallied (OK yeah a couple white people and some Hispanics — oh, my bad, Mama, Latinos — might’ve shown up to the polls but everyone knows it was us) and you’re back in there, man. What’re you gonna give us for this gift? As it stands right now, it doesn’t seem like you’ve done much specifically for us and as everybody knows, your first priority is to us. Because you’re black. We’re black. Let’s do the handshake. Sure, you talk a good game about inclusion and equality but come on. Us. What about us? You wouldn’t be where you are without us, you know that. You have to know that.
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If you get something else out of this open letter besides our president has been “camouflag[ing] his blackness”, please let me know. The letter is from Keith Harriston and apparently comes from Black America. I happen to be a part of this esteemed group but I couldn’t disagree more with Mr. Harriston’s assessment of dues to black people. People vote because it is their right. Some would submit that it is a person’s duty to vote. Regardless of whether one has voted for President Obama based on policy or based on race, to expect a reward for his win is preposterous. Is his win not enough? Is his win not enough for all of us? Wasn’t his platform against divisiveness? Didn’t he talk about coming together rather than separating ourselves further? Then why, now, after we put him back in office, are we asking for a present for exercising our right? Do the people, black or white, who didn’t vote also deserve a gift? Or are they gift exempt because they didn’t help with the win? It’s not enough to just be black? If we’re asking for favors, why not help all of us?
Professor Reginald Miles is quoted in the letter as saying, “We need to decide what we want.” I’m trying not to be flippant, but, I don’t know how best to respond to this demand. I want dinner. I want all of the things that I have and I want better health care, more hospitals in Southeast where I live. I want my credit score to be better than -46 but I don’t see how my desires differ from any middle class (am I still middle class? I don’t know anymore!) white or Latino person. The president’s policies have awarded all of us better opportunities. But that doesn’t mean that our work for ourselves has stopped. His job is to open doors, create avenues, pave them, let us know they are there. Our job is to get off our asses and stop asking for handouts (only 47% of us do that, mind you) based on race or anything else. My take on “decide what we want” is having an ongoing dialogue with him, letting him know what issues are most important to us as a society, not us as a race or us as individuals.
There is still a recession. There still aren’t enough jobs available. I believe the president’s administration is working on these things. But the key is he is working on them for all of us. We have to be willing to work alongside him. We have to be willing to not expect anything but be grateful for what we are given, what we earn, what we work toward. We have to be willing to understand that he is making a better world for us, for our children, and he is not thinking about their skin color. We just need better. We don’t need better because we are black.
I have a job. I am grateful to have it. I have a house with heat and water and electricity. I have enough food. I have healthy children. I am paying too much for all of it. I need relief. But I don’t need it because I’m black; I need it because I am. There is an old saying: if she knew better, she’d do better. Well, that’s not always the case. I know better but I have to force myself do better. I also need to have access to better. Knowing isn’t always enough. I know better jobs exist; there is an avenue I have to take to get to the job I desire. I know better education exists, but if I’m only given sub-par facilities and stressed, underpaid teachers, how will I get to that road? Correcting the economic situation we find ourselves in will take all of us, from our government to employers to employees, regardless of race, regardless of political affiliation, sex, and every other box on all the forms we fill out.
As is usually the case in this city, this can be looked at in black and white terms. Black is one side of the Sousa bridge, white is the other, where the White House happens to be. My children deserve as good an education as any white child on the other side of the bridge. They deserve the education the president’s daughters are receiving. But, they don’t deserve this because they are black; that is irrelevant. Rather than look at the disparity between what others are offered compared to what is available to black people, it is my job for myself and my children to find opportunities. It is my job to enhance their education with options that are not available at their current school (but should be available at their current school.) It is my job to educate myself, to find loans and grants and scholarships (or, here’s a thought: be financially prepared prior to attending college or be fiscally conservative and smart with purchases.) It is my job to make sure my children know that it is their job to refuse to settle for the standard “It’s hard”.
Yet, it is hard. Life is hard, Mr. Harriston. Paying Pepco in full each month is hard. I don’t need to make it any harder on my president or myself by waiting around for some ill conceived, race-based, let me do it for you gift. Is that too hard for you?