Friday, April 04, 2008

telling it like it is

on this, the 40th anniversary of martin luther king, jr's assassination, i think that it is important to pause and reflect on the state of our nation. as i solemnly watched the marches in memphis and atlanta on cable tv, it seemed rather obvious that the concerns of this generation are quite different than those of our parents. but not really. we can all use the same public bathrooms and water fountains -- but why would we? (ew.) yes, we can all vote (except when we are barred from the process, as in florida in 2000) -- but many of us do not vote, anyway. and no, we are no longer segregated socially -- except when we segregate ourselves. and if we're completely honest with ourselves, we'll admit that's most of the time.

the fact that his birthday is a national holiday is hardly enough.

this is about our collective lack of empathy. somewhere in there, all of this boils down to perception, to assumption, to racism, to our refusal to change or accept change in others. it's also about white privilege and the white progressives who refuse to acknowledge white privilege as a very basic tenet to the fabric of their american way of life.

i watched a news clip of obama's supporters chanting "race doesn't matter!" over and over again, triumphantly -- like their saying it made it true. of course, race matters. when you and your excellent credit are applying for that bank loan, when you and your master's degree are filling out that job application, when you're looking for a new place to live in the "wrong" neighborhood, race matters a great deal.

i think a part of what fuels the anger in my generation is that we were the promise of that dream. we were told that if we made good grades and went to college and finished our degrees and assimilated into the mainstream of american society, that dream of "race doesn't matter!" would be our reality. so we put blinders on, we ignored the naysayers, we worked hard, we did what we were told. and somewhere in there, we woke up and realized that assimilation is a lie. slowly, certain realities began to surface.

when dave chappelle walked away from that $50 million dollar deal and said, "the bottom line was, white people own everything," i understood completely. and then when he continued by asking, "and where can a black person go and be himself or say something that's familiar to him and not have to explain or apologize?" i thought, that pretty much sums it up. let's face it, people. if you want your dreams to come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up. if you think race doesn't matter, you're sleepwalking. how can the dream ever happen if we don't wake up and dismantle the status quo?

white privilege is real. as black folk, we aren't overly sensitive or paranoid to say that it exists. we're just telling it like it is.

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