B*tch A$$ N*ggas - Part II:
A Vote Is A Terrible Thing To Waste
Read Part I - Thinking Black, Living American
The other night I was in a bit of a retrospective mood. Among my many recollections were thoughts surrounding events and colorful characters that have impacted my life and crossed my path. Even though my thoughts were coming and going at a rapid pace I could not help but to pause and ponder the comments of three very different people. At first I could not connect the dots but after an hour or two I begin to see the parallels.
As I stated in my first installment, I don’t know if the term “bitch ass nigga” was introduced to me by The Boondocks or Katt Williams but the term is appropriate when taking a critical look at African-American’s reactions to certain events. Now, I am not trying to position myself as “holier than thou”, in fact I am sure that I have acted like a bitch ass nigga regarding an issue to which I held some self imposed allegiance, and more importantly, felt like I was justified so I paraded my ego trippin’ ass around stating an infinite number of platitudes and conjuring up as much benign philosophical bullshit as I could.
As I said before, the comments that I thought about varied just as much as the individuals themselves. The first was by my Big Mama – is it me or have you noticed that Big Mama’s are becoming extinct? I won’t go there, that’s a discussion for another installment – who I fondly remember from my younger days saying, “I tell you Black folks have been heading straight to Hell ever since they stopped drinking RC and started drinking Coca-Cola.” I never could understand her rationale for coming to this conclusion but for those of you who have had a Big Mama then you know that she draws her wisdom from an entirely different and undeterminable source.
You see in Big Mama’s eyes RC Cola (or Royal Crown Cola) was just a refreshing beverage but Coke was different. It was a drug passing itself off as a refreshing soft drink. She firmly believed that Coke, with its traces of cocaine and reported miracle healing effects, was making Negroes act out of character and no self-respecting Negro could desire such a thing. As I got older, and a little wiser, I began to understand that my Big Mama’s disdain had nothing to do with her personal preference for one soft drink over the other; rather, her concern was that Negroes were simulating white people with little or no regard for the consequences of their actions. Big Mama never progressed to the point of saying “African American”. I believe she viewed that as the ultimate sign of surrender to her fear.
The second comment was by an older gentleman that had befriended me while working at a summer job during my college years. Clem introduced me to horse racing and would take me to Delta Downs in Vinton, LA every Thursday night. On one occasion Clem brought one of his many girlfriends along – although he claimed to have many girls, Faye was the only one I ever met, but this too is a story for a later post at which time we’ll look at the topic of Real Playas.
At the beginning of each race the horses are brought into the gallery for viewing. A beautiful chestnut-brown colt with a striking muscular build was brought out and Faye immediately said she was going to place her bet on him. I remember Clem’s response to her, “Baby girl, never bet on a show horse when you’re racing thoroughbreds. A show horse doesn’t like to get dirty and in a thoroughbred race even the winner gets dirty.” Clem was right in that regard, the horse finished next to last and Faye lost… and though I hate to admit it, I did too!
Looking back, I know that Clem was giving me some expert advice about horse racing but in reality his advice was more profound and struck at the very heart of how we have become accustomed to thinking. In fact, Clem’s comment was akin to Dr. King’s futuristic view of America when he said we would not be “judged by the color of our skin but by content of our character.” While we may love to recite this quote, we fail to realize Dr. King’s presupposition that first we are to have character; likewise we do not recognize his directive that we develop the kind of character that can withstand scrutiny and stand strong in the face of challenges and adversity.
The final comment was made by my oldest daughter. My daughter is a college junior and shares many of the same idealistic views of the world as her peers, as well as their frustration with parents who once painted this “it’s all about you” picture and are now trying to flip the script. She is excited about voting in her first Presidential Election and the fact that Senator Obama is running a stellar campaign has done more to add to her jubilation. The other night we were watching the latest developments in the Democratic Race and the topic of Hillary getting the nomination came up. At the conclusion of the segment my daughter said, “That ain’t right! If that happens I’m not going to waste my time voting because it doesn’t matter. `Cuz they’re going to do what they want to anyway.”
Her comment is not unique and if we uncover the details regarding highly contested elections in the past, we can assume that her sentiments, which is shared by many others, are not without basis. I cherish my obligation and privilege to vote and I have tried to instill that principle in her as well. Political pundits say that the young vote is unreliable because the majority of them do not consider it as pertinent to their lives. Additionally, I have heard many Blacks state that if Senator Obama is denied the nomination by the Democratic Party then they too will not vote.
These comments led me to think about African American’s current political capital. First, we still have not apprehended the full value of our voting capacity. Not casting a vote ultimately does not show your dissent. Now I am not promoting a vote for John McCain, who is already struggling to firm up his base. I know this sounds real crazy but if we want to show our dissent then we should use our vote to make a contender out of a candidate who had no possibility of winning. To not vote would send a message that we were pouting and would not endear any candidate to include our concerns in their platform. However, if we made a real contender out of a candidate then he or she would be indebted to us for our support and it would send a message to future candidates that we can indeed be king makers. As I explained to my daughter, to not vote because you are disgruntled is the true sign of a Bitch Ass Nigga!
Secondly, African Americans must begin to come down off of this Obama high and realize that while we are in the midst of potentially making history, we must not forget the history that we are already living. By this I mean, an Obama presidency will not have near the impact on your daily living as much as the person who enforces public safety in your area or the one who determines how development dollars are spent in your area or the people who control your children’s education. I know the Obama-rama! has been exhilarating but it cannot replace the hell you are catching because of continued driver profiling, questionable and manipulative jurisprudence by law enforcement and the district attorney, and the continued disparity in the quality of educational services offered at predominately minority low-income schools and those within predominately white middle-income/high-income areas.
Finally, with all the excitement and optimism that is enveloping African Americans with the likely nomination of Obama and the possibility that he could ascend to the White House, I have a few questions of my brothers and sisters. Chief among them is what are we expecting from him? And, what are we expecting to change for us? I ask this because during the mayoral candidacy of Lee P. Brown I witnessed local African Americans response prior to and immediately afterwards. I could not help but notice a major deflation of their expectation bubble and their shock at facing the reality that nothing had really changed. This experience was not unique to Houston, for it has been played out in most major U.S. cities with the exception of Atlanta (the late Maynard Jackson), Detroit (Coleman Young) and a few others.
This has happened not only with our mayors but with most of our Black elected officials because while our vote may have secured their place in office, it was the money in their campaign coffers that kept their attention and the high-dollar contributors that they truly answered to. Now, I am not saying that all Black politicians are selling their votes to the highest bidder but I am encouraging African Americans to increase their participation in the political process beyond the act of voting. We must become creative in using our monies to establish platform agendas, such as developing PACs (Political Action Committees) and creating 527 organizations to provide external support to candidates who further our agendas. Using Clem’s analogy, we must no longer continue to get caught up in this perception of becoming enamored with the “show horse” and learn the art of “the race”.
Please do not misconstrue my statement as labeling Obama to be a “show horse”. I am simply saying we can ill afford to provide undying support to any candidate without conditions. As Minister Farrakhan once said when asked during the 2000 primary season if he would support General Colin Powell in a bid for president, “A Black man in the White House is nothing more than a Black face on a White reality.” The sooner we understand that we cannot bring a beauty pageant mentality to the political process then we will learn to use our vote much wisely.
In conclusion, I am definitely filled with pride regarding Obama’s run at the presidency and I am sure that my current feelings will be vastly overshadowed if he were to win in November. And if that happens, I know unprecedented numbers of African Americans will be in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009, and that Inauguration will be more festive than any have ever seen because you know we love a good party. We will look like debutantes and the couple on top of a wedding cake. Black women will be divine and Black men will be debonair as we waltz across the ballroom floor. But as Big Mama warned, don’t drink the Coke because on January 21, 2009, we will return to our normal lives.