Monday, July 14, 2008
Your Black Power: Boyce Watkins on The New Yorker Obama Cover
Dr. Boyce Watkins
Not sure if you guys have seen this cover of Barack and Michelle Obama on The New Yorker today, but here it is.
Those of you who know me know what I am thinking:
1) Black people should never purchase another copy of The New Yorker again, unless there is a retraction and full apology. Even then, they should be held accountable regarding how many African American writers and editors they have on staff.
2) This cover says at least two things: Being too black is a bad thing, and being a Muslim is just as bad. I don't believe that Senator Obama is a Muslim, but it is shameful that being a Muslim has become a crime in this country. It appears that black skin is acceptable, but black people receive acceptance into the establishment typically if they are docile and weak (hence, the whole "militant black woman" label you see on the cover). Many of you experience this kind of cultural dominance every day on the job. This, in my opinion, is the new racism of America. People don't hate you for having black skin. They hate you for having black cultural attributes that they do not understand (Remember when the boxer Joe Louis was given the list of appropriate Negro behavior when he became a pro? America loved him because he followed the list).
3) This re-emphasizes the need for more black-owned media. This election has been distorted because there are no black voices to counter those of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Hence, our voices are either muted or distorted, and we end up having to "shoosh" one another to ensure that the media doesn't find out that black people really have something to be angry about. That kind of sickens me.
4) Someone asked me to explain why I am voting for Obama. Here is the answer: 1) He is electable. 2) He is intelligent. 3) He is better than McCain (anyone is). 4) I respect strong, intelligent brothers. 5) The rest of the world hates our guts and he can help fix that problem. 6) Michelle Obama is one of the most intellectually beautiful people I've ever seen, and I am hopeful that she can keep Barack honest. My frustrations with Barack are similar to my frustrations with some hip hop artists: They both end up doing silly things in response to pressure from the racists they are trying to appease. If they were behaving according to free will, they would likely be doing something entirely different. Racism makes all of us do things that are humiliating to our people and ultimately divisive, and as long as we are chasing corporate, political and financial carrots, we will always be a slave to this tap dance. I am no exception, but I strive each day to break out of that pattern.
5) Congrats to another beautiful black woman, Cynthia McKinney, who just secured the Green Party nomination. Her platform is quite compelling, and she deserves an honest look from all of us. I suggest that when it comes to all candidates, we look at a list of the issues and make decisions based on whether the candidate appears to be willing to support the agenda that works best for our community (whatever that means to you). We should also remember that when it comes to politicians, if we ask for nothing, we will get nothing. So, don't be afraid to ask for political accountability (even if you think that Barack is the Black Baby Jesus).