American Express: The Race Card and America

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States of America was heralded as the coming of a new age of race relations in America. Nearly 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the issue of race was deemed no longer relevant, nothing more than a ghost left to haunt the hollows of America’s past. Fast forward to 2016 and Pres. Obama is now viewed by some as the “great divider”, an individual who he alone has set race relations back 100 years. His policies and demeanor have been deemed so appalling to the public he served that he has forced the Americans to embrace the segregationist and protectionist ideologies of a forgone era. If we are to believe one man wielded such an enormous amount of control over the population, then we regrettably have already failed as a nation. A more plausible theory is that the jubilation, comradery, and racial harmony following his election were merely a façade, a mask hiding the scars that discrimination and racial tension continue to etch on the face of America the beautiful.

Discussing race is inherently difficult. It is impossible to express the emotional toll race takes on an individual. A woman can describe her experience during childbearing as eloquently and descriptive as she can to man. She can include all the little intricate details, from morning sickness to cravings, the elation of feeling baby’s first kick, the first time she laid eyes on her child, and man will never comprehend those feelings. I can go into detail about being called a nigger as a teenager in Alabama. Having my physical education teacher explain how “white is the right race, the pure race”. Even worse was hearing the principal, who was black, relate to me how I should get over it, it only words. Or having my platoon sergeant call me his “favorite colored”. Having a middle age white women tell me there is no way I can be a Republican because that is not what “my people do” (for the record I consider myself a small government conservative, although I am more liberal on social issues). Being pulled over by the police for “thefts in the area” or to make sure I “belong in the neighborhood”.  That is the modern day black experience.

The mirage of racial equality in 2006 was just that, our minds projecting an illusion of what we really want; of how we know it should be. The so-called Black Lives Matter movement in 2015, Ferguson, Mo in 2014, the Los Angeles Riots of the early 1990’s, the Watts riots in 1965, North Carolina in 1958, Detroit in 1943. These were not trivial disputes over race. These were individuals struggling for the basic rights afforded to them by the Constitution of the United States. Maybe it was the lull of incidents from the late 1990’s – 2000’s. It could have been that the tragedy of the 9/11 terror attacks united American’s against a common enemy. The lack of discussion on racial issues may have mistakenly been construed as happiness. The plight of blacks for equality is not dissimilar to those seeking equality for their gender, religion, or sexual orientation. When the Supreme Court overturned the ban on same-sex marriage it was a watershed moment. But it was just one victory in the quest for true equality for all. The same goes equal pay for equal work. Just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

I criticize our country because I love it so much. I have witnessed my fellow countrymen risk their own lives and wellbeing to help those in need, both at home and abroad. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, as well as allowing consenting adults to marry whom they like. I believe we are all created equal, and we should treat each with dignity and respect. I am not a Marxist but I can respect and appreciate his writings and views. I am Christian, I am Muslim, I am Jewish. I am a veteran, a son, and a brother. I am not a thug, an ape, or a welfare-recipient. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, nor anyone else speaks for me; I am intelligent enough to gather my own information and form my own opinions. I may not be a genius, but I am certainly not a “diversity” student. I am African-American because that is what my country chooses to label me. I am black because I have chosen to embrace my culture in America, from jazz to the blues, from Langston Hughes to Beauford Delany. My blackness is my ethnicity, my pride, my joy. My blackness is who I am, engrained in me by my experiences, my wisdom. My blackness is what drives to strive for equality for all people. When speak on social justice it is from the heart. What some may call playing the “race card” I merely see it as telling my story as an American.