The sixty four thousand dollar question this week is, “how long do we have to wait before Donald Trump and the rest of the inhabitants of Pale Nation, that stubborn subset of white Americans who still feel like they are doing all of us minorities a favor by letting us breathe the same air they do, realize that this discombobulating feeling they have been wrestling with these past two and a half years is going to be permanent?”
Because for these folks, to have to see the brown skinned face of Barack Obama standing behind a White House podium and accept the fact that he has earned the right to be the president of these United States means that they are wrong, that their belief systems are wrong, that the bedrock of the principles by which they live their lives, which most certainly does not include any notion of true equality with black or brown people, are just plain wrong.
These are the things no influence shaper wants to talk about, because the kind of kindergarten equality we have today is only tangentially related to an actual universal equality. Universal equality means any American of any ethnicity could potentially wield the power to retaliate, the power to dictate the agenda, and the power to rearrange the fabric of the lives we have come to believe are authentically American.
There is a scene in the movie In the Heat Of The Night, set in Sparta Mississippi in the 1960’s, where a young, vigorous Sidney Poitier, who plays a Philadelphia detective, confronts the old Southern aristocratic banker who is responsible for the death of a wealthy progressive industrialist. Poitier got slapped hard across the face by the white banker when he asserted his authority as an officer of the law, something the banker had undoubtedly done many times before to rebuke impudent, uppity blacks who threatened his way of doing business. It was Poitier’s arm slinging back automatically, as if by natural reflex, his brown hand cracking the southern aristocrat square across the face, that brings me back to this picture year after year.
I have watched this scene and that famous slap by Poitier many, many times from the relative comfort of the new millennium, but wasn’t until the last couple of years that I really began to understand what that slap meant. For African Americans across the country, the vile and disgusting attitude Donald Trump has displayed over President Obama’s birthplace, an attitude heartily aided and abetted by our intellectually impotent press corps, is the metaphorical manifestation of that white hand slapping a black face writ large.
Around the blogosphere black writers are howling a collective barbaric yawp. TaNehisi Coates over at The Atlantic contended “this is the host of ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ questioning the intellect of the past editor of the Harvard Law Review.” Baratunde Thurston, co-founder of Jack and Jill Politics, abandoned the keyboard and took his howl straight to Youtube. Chauncey Devega over at We Are Respectable Negroes summed it all up:
…an offense of principle is not that same as feeling that you were collectively slapped in the face by the repeated insinuations that America’s first black President is somehow a fraud.
As this blogger at We Are Respectable Negroes explained, “the Tea Party GOP may indulge in talk about Birtherism, xenophobia, rewriting history textbooks in Texas, banning ethic studies in Arizona, secession, nullification, and States’ Rights, but the New Right is really about a fierce protection of the psychic and material wages of Whiteness.”
On Wednesday night, I watched our influence shapers like Jake Tapper of ABC and John King of CNN, who both looked as though the boundaries of our political narrative had gotten away from them with the president’s release of his birth certificate. I was glad to see their bewildered reactions. I was glad to see them lose control, at least temporarily, of the nation’s political narrative.
Because it doesn’t matter anymore what sort of euphemisms or doublespeak anyone in the media insists on trying to keep using. The facts are in. The idea of African Americanness is in the process of becoming unbounded in America, a phenomenon that will demand some sort of self transformation from all of us.