I had the most intolerable and tedious conversation with one of my coworkers yesterday. It started off well and amicably enough, as most irrational discourses do, but as a matter of course ended in disaster 10 minutes later.
‘Mark’, the newest addition to my department’s team is a 30-something year old Black man from Mississippi – which in turn may lead you to make certain assumptions about him, all of which would be correct. He’s both affable and defensive, and so navigating his moods has proven to be a bit of a challenge. Yesterday, he broke from listening to the sole source of his news: V103 (That’s not fair. He listens to Hot 107.9 to get his news and opinion as well), and swiveled around in his chair.
“Malaka, these dudes is crazy with this Obama birth certificate!” he ‘whispered’ harshly.
I don’t whisper in the office.
“I know right! The whole thing is stupid,” I agreed. “Whether the birthers like it or not, he’s already the sitting president of the United States. American presidents have power that we don’t even know about. They do deals that we’ll never hear about. If he wanted to have someone type up a new birth certificate at the State Department real quick just to squash the debate, he can do that.”
Mark nodded his head.
I don’t know exactly what was said next, but suddenly Mark invoked the name of Bill Clinton.
“I LOVED that man, you hear what I say?” he grinned.
“You lov’ded him, huh?” I joked back.
“Yeah,” Mark smiled. “I just liked him, you know? With the saxophone and coming on Arsenio. He was just cool. To me, he was the first Black president.”
I bristled, and was no longer smiling.
“And what made him the first Black president?” I asked flatly.
“I just feel like he was the only person, the only president in our history, who ever really looked out for Black people,” he said matter-of-factly.
“And what did he do for Black people?” I asked even more insipidly.
“You know, just through his policies…His policies helped Black folk a lot.”
“And what policies were those?”
“It was just the stuff he did!” He was clearly becoming irritated because I was not following the scripted Black discourse where we all chuckle and reminisce over the days when Bill was running things.
But I did try to help him.
“So was he ‘Black’ because he played a saxophone…?”
Mark did not appreciate my apparent sarcasm. His emotions heightening, and he frowned and titled his head dismissively.
“You can go on ahead and say that he was Black because of the saxophone and try to put words in my mouth –“
“I didn’t put any words in your mouth,” I retorted. “You mentioned the saxophone.”
He clearly wasn’t going to win this one, so he did what people who are failing to prove their position with facts and a persuasive argument do – he deflected.
“Well, you’re not from here, so I guess you wouldn’t understand.”
What a twerp. I’m not from Germany, but I know Hitler was the original OG Terrorist.
“I’m half American…so I’m “half” from here,” I retorted.
“Yeah. But I’m FROM here from here. You’re only half from here.”
With that, we both turned around and went back to doing our ‘work’.
The assertion that Bill Clinton was the first ‘Black President’ has steadily become one of my most exasperating pet peeves. In fact, the whole assertion that Blacks thrive under Democrats and flounder under Republicans is absolutely asinine. Mark didn’t want to say it, but the qualities that made/make Bill Clinton ‘Black’ aren’t admirable ones. He was caught receiving head in the White House; he habitually cheated on his wife; he likes fried chicken and fast food (and has had to have open heart surgery as a result); and he lied to congress about his affairs. Not ONCE has anyone said ‘Bill Clinton was a Black president because he is charming (which he is), persuasive (which he is), and because he’s a shrewd politician’. NOT ONCE. Why? Because those aren’t adjectives typically ascribed to Black men, and because Black people don’t have a patent/monopoly on any of those characteristics.
And as far as any policies that Bill Clinton enacted, those weren’t designed to help Black people exclusively. No matter what Black people, or any people think, the only color that matters in this country is green. When Bill Clinton signed NAFTA, he did so knowing that many jobs would be gained, and many would equally be lost as more and more corporations shipped their operations overseas. If you happened to be a Black man working at Navistar in Springfield, OH and lost your job in the 90’s, you have Billie to thank for that. Equally, if you suddenly find that many of your commodities are cheaper to buy, you have him to thank for that as well. He was merely continuing an economic policy trend that was conceived during FDR’s era.
Do you know what happens when you try to serve one community exclusively? We have ourselves a Great Depression. George Bush (who apparently hates Black people, and showed it by appointing more African Americans to his cabinet than any other previous President) pushed policy that would put an end to process of red-lining urban and poor communities – communities that were overwhelmingly populated by Blacks and Latinos.
And what did my people do with this reversal in fiscal policy? Answer: Go shopping for McMansions on a McDonald’s salary. Literally, people were shopping for $300,000 homes with a gross income of $25,000. Enter the predatory lenders and loan sharks, sprinkle in a few hundred thousand layoffs, and we find ourselves where we are today: mired knee deep in a fiscal pool of crap.
But here’s the kicker: George Bush is just the Republican face of Democratic failure. The Dems had control of the House AND the Senate the last 4 years of his presidency, as well as the first 2 years of Obama’s presidency. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15620405/ns/politics/) When the Democrats are hollering about Bush’s ‘failed policies’, those were their policies. So who’s really to blame for where we are today?
The president’s charter is to serve the nation. If you are Black and recall that you were thriving under Clinton, believe me it had nothing to do with the color of your skin. It had everything to do with your education, your median income, and your ability to manipulate the markets to the best of your capacity…just like your Hispanic neighbor, as well as the Caucasian one. Unless we’ve been living in communist China for the last 50 years and I didn’t know it, it’s fair to say the government didn’t do any of those things for you. Your family helped you get those things. Your efforts got you what you have…or don’t have.
BILL CLINTON DIDN’T DO THAT FOR YOU, BLACK PEOPLE. GET THAT THROUGH YOUR HEAD.
While we’re here, can I beg my people to choose our anointed objects of adulation a little bit more carefully? #RKelly.