After Obama served two terms as president; after Oprah became one of the richest people Earth has ever known; after America became history’s most diverse nation where the descendants of black slaves, as a group, are more successful than any that ever existed, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris are talking about race as if we’re still living in the ‘60s. And they do it not to solve real moral and socioeconomic problems in poor black communities – but to get political power.
Cory and Kamala are mixing anecdotal scraps from America’s bad old days with “microaggressions” from today’s classroom racism, to cobble together a political scarecrow that tricks people into believing that racial oppression still exists. It doesn’t.
Never mind that America has bent over backward to right the wrongs of the past. Still, liberal politicians and pundits are fixated on basking in the glory of the civil rights days – which they missed – at a time when the circumstances that drove that movement have drastically improved.
Rather than the glass being half full: “America freed the slaves and repealed Jim Crow laws, and we’ve come a very long way”; they see the glass as half empty: “America enslaved blacks, discriminated against them, and we still have a long way to go.”
Spouting the negative view is working for Kamala Harris.
After Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a comment from a black tweeter questioning whether Harris is authentically African American, liberal pundits jumped him. Harris has not only pulled out of the single digits to become second only to Biden in post-debate polls, she’s also boosted her support among blacks. For liberals, Don Jr. has crossed the “birther” Rubicon.
Harris, I’m sure, will now use her newfound Jim Crow cred to attack Don Jr. at every turn. “Blackish” opportunists like Harris, Booker and Colin Kaepernick loathe nothing more than having their black authenticity questioned.
“@KamalaHarris doesn’t have sh*t to prove,” an enraged Booker tweeted in response to Don Jr’s retweet.
None of this race stuff makes sense to me because I was born in the South in 1959 – Charlotte, North Carolina – and, as a little kid, I was raised under the putrid odor of Jim Crow. Back then, you didn’t need a microscope to hunt for microaggressions unseen by the naked eye. Racial oppression was legal. Racial oppression was normalized. Racial oppression was everywhere!
I vividly remember local civil rights leaders plotting strategy in our living room and watching news reports of black marchers, locked arm in arm, singing “We Shall Overcome” with Dr. King. Even as a kid, the scene brought tears to my eyes because these people, singing from deep within their souls, were fighting a real oppression – enforced by law – against impossible odds.
I remember hearing stories from my mother about sneaking to sip from the “white” water fountains to see if it tasted better; about the laws that forbade us to sit at the front of the bus; and about watching movies in segregated theaters. My grandmother, born 60 or so years removed from slavery, picked cotton with her sister and cleaned “white folks'” homes on old plantations.
Yet somehow, even in the ‘50s and ‘60s, blacks in my segregated neighborhood focused on their dreams and what was possible in America. My mother, as far as I know, was one of only two divorced mothers who lived in my neighborhood. She needed two jobs to keep up with the rent. Because my siblings and I grew up fatherless, we stuck out like sore thumbs. Nearly all the families in my neighborhood were intact, with mothers at home full-time and fathers working to provide and protect them. Out-of-wedlock births were unheard of. Couples who “shacked up” (living together outside marriage) were ostracized.
Growing up, my friends’ dads were lawyers, teachers, ministers, general contractors, politicians, dentists and doctors who owned their homes, took vacations, went to church, and worked to save for their children’s college.
I was in sixth grade when we saw whites come into our neighborhood after schools were desegregated. In seventh grade, we were bussed nearly an hour from our community to junior high school. Looking back, bussing was a disaster. It thinned the bonds of community in my neighborhood and introduced us to a class of “black folks” whose destructive behavior was much like those found in inner cities today.
Color was never the problem; it was the bad upbringing – a culture of young men who were streetwise, school-dumb, rebellious and cocky. We called them “creek boys.” Associating with them invited negative influences that altered the lives of some of the comparatively innocent youth incubated in my neighborhood. At an impressionable age, forced bussing forced them to grapple with a culture that was not as upwardly mobile as the one they were used to.
That’s why it rang hollow to me when Kamala Harris used Biden’s opposition against school bussing as a political bludgeon to dog-whistle him into the segregationists’ camp. But given Biden’s own sordid history with race-baiting, it was only a matter of time that the sword he helped to sharpen would one day turn on him. His 49-year career will now die by that sword because, being an “old white male,” he doesn’t have the energy or political courage to tell the truth about racial oppression – that it doesn’t exist.
All the overtures about America needing to have a “conversation about race” also ring hollow because that’s all the Corys, the Kamalas and the Colins of the world ever do – talk and complain. They believe talking and complaining is doing something about the deep generational problems in low-income black neighborhoods. Those problems fester. And as politicians yak about past wrongs, they help to normalize a victim mentality in black communities that gets more entrenched as new generations get raised on their debilitating gospel.
But many black Americans are not letting the country’s past problems stop them from believing its promise – even as wretched politicians use disadvantaged blacks as props to get and keep political power.
Americans of all colors are getting sick of all the yap about racism that’s taking the country backward for no good reason. Needlessly creating racial division tramples on the graves of countless blacks and whites who gave up their livelihoods and blood to fuse the fragile bond between the races. Their blood made that bond sacred. It’s now up to us to build on what they died to create.