I have been reminded of three incidents involving a stranger, a friend and an acquaintance the days following President Obama’s historic re-election.
First, I will relay the incident with the stranger. When I was a teenager, I loved reading fashion magazines to see all the latest trends and beauty products. I was reading the letters to the editor of one magazine and discovered that, for the first time ever, a black model had graced the cover the previous month. The letters from readers were mostly positive for this “bold” move. I thought it was ridiculous to consider the model’s selection for the cover as bold given the time period was the late 1980s-early ‘90s. The last letter, however, changed my mind. It was from a woman who explained that while she applauded the magazine’s decision to select a black woman as the cover model she also appreciated her white world. If she wanted to look at black models, she would buy a black fashion magazine. Simply put, she did not appreciate seeing a black woman on the cover the magazine. As I scanned the inside of the magazine, I discovered the articles, advertisements and photos were still geared towards her “white world” and I was sure it was same for the previous month. That, obviously, was either lost or did not matter to the reader. She still felt her world – as she knew it – was being compromised.
The second incident involves a friend. We were chatting during a break in our work day. He began to tell me how he had railed against an officer some months earlier who had pulled him over for speeding. He went on and on about he interrupted the officer while he was speaking and shouted expletives at him. When I asked him if the officer responded to his tirade, he said he didn’t. My friend said the officer just looked at him and let him go with a warning. When I told him I found it hard to believe that he could get away with such disrespect and disregard of an officer and his instructions, he thought a moment then said, “It probably would have gone differently if I weren’t white.”
The third incident involves a social media acquaintance the day after President Obama’s re-election. The acquaintance was upset at the results but resigned to the outcome. I knew her political leanings from earlier posts throughout the campaign so her written tantrum wasn’t surprising. However, a comment written in response to her post caught my eye. The commenter was also upset, but the reason was enlightening. He was saddened because “the America of my parents and grandparents is gone.”
Yes, America is changing. Whether it is for the better or worse depends solely upon your perspective. President Obama’s re-election proved that White privilege no longer assures victory. It is not enough to be White, male and rich. It is not enough to play on the emotions of middle class whites by promising action without clearly defining an action plan. Rich, white males are going to have to put forth the effort, i.e. work, and seriously consider what is best for all Americans and not just be concerned about one class (upper) while stirring up the inherent fears in another (middle). White men can no longer play the race card.
It is also not enough for black men to blame society for a lack of opportunity and/or direction. At one time, there were chains and laws that prevented them from sharing in the American dream. The only chains and laws preventing them now are the ones placed and enacted through generation after generation of mindsets. Every door isn’t open just as every door isn’t open for poor whites, Hispanics, Asians, and other ethnic groups. However, enough doors are open so that with a sufficient amount of drive, goals and the desire to achieve those goals, i.e. work, success can happen. Black men can no longer play the race card.
Race is the superficial issue at hand; the core is class. The Haves versus the Have-Nots. The classes are blinded by race because, historically, the Have-Nots have been Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and other ethnic groups. That is no longer the case. Economic hardships affect all races but not always all classes. Unfortunately, we live in a world where a disproportionate amount of Haves are not willing to share a portion of their wealth and influence to assist the Have-Nots, which are the majority. I’m not referring to welfare or hand-outs; I’m referring to a fair representation of taxes to ease the burdens of millions of hard-working and tax-paying citizens. It is common sense that, in a country that assesses taxes, those who have more should pay more. Instead, the Haves play on the fears of the Have-Nots by threatening to terminate workers, suspend cost of living increases or close companies and move to other countries with weaker policies. The Haves know that money is a motivator because it is what motivates them, not loyalty to country or concern for the masses. The Haves garner the support of the Have-Nots because the Have-Nots fear losing their jobs and all for which they have worked. The Haves continually play on the Have-Nots fears out of their own fear of compromising –not losing – the abundant wealth they have accumulated. That fear is being projected upon the President – a black man from meager beginnings who, by all conventional wisdom, did not stand a chance of being elected the leader of the free world much less re-elected. He has shaken the certainty of the white world. He is proof that America’s old way of thinking is falling by the wayside. His re-election signals the end of playing race cards.
America is now a true melting pot of ethnicities and a land of opportunities for all. Those sentiments are no longer just propaganda distributed to the rest of world. We’re finally living it. We can accept this change and work together. Or, some can continue to resent this change and refuse to bend. All businesses know that they must adapt to change in order to maintain their standings or they will fold. The same holds true for societies. Now is not the time for arrogance, hate-mongering and posturing. We need to come together as Americans without all the labels and fears. Our refusal to do so will, ultimately, result in our downfall.