“Sweet King Martin / Sweet Queen Coretta / Sweet Brother Malcolm / Sweet Queen Betty / Sweet Mother Mary / Sweet Father Joseph / Sweet Jesus … we made it in America.” –Frank Ocean, Watch The Throne
As Frank pays homage to religious leaders and heroic ancestors, I wonder what he means when he says, “We made it in America.” If Mr. Ocean is suggesting that Blacks have advanced far beyond the oppressive walls we were held up against, then he’s telling the damn truth; we’ve made it in America. But if Frank’s statement contains a deeper meaning intended to reflect America’s current position on race, he should’ve conjured up the spirit of Marty McFly. We’ve gone back to the future.
Even the spell check on Microsoft Word corrects President Barack Obama’s name. “Post-racial” America must’ve stopped using PCs. Speaking of P.C., isn’t it politically correct to refer to current and past Commanders-in-Chief alike as President? In a country where even the most repudiated heads of state (Bush, Nixon) have always been respectfully granted the right of “President” preceding their name, our nation’s leader is commonly referred to as Barack and graciously, Mr. Obama. Racism is so woven into the fabric of America that racists don’t even realize they’re racists. Are we going back in time trying to advance into the future?
Flip through Esquire Magazine and you might catch a Nivea ad that depicts a clean-shaven black man with close-cropped hair angrily throwing the severed head of an Afro-wearing, bearded black man. The text of the ad reads “Re-civilize yourself” and has the caption, “Look like you give a damn.” If your fingers were quick enough to scroll through the Vogue Italy website last month, you would’ve noticed their “Slave Earrings” feature before it was retracted due to a viral uproar from blogs around the world. Research death row and you’ll discover too many cases where presumably innocent Black men are waiting to die, and countless non-Black cops are still getting away with irresponsibly murdering unarmed Black men. Racism is overt in America.
Pre-President Obama, discrimination in America was stashed away in statistics, hidden in justice, and quietly festering in police departments. After President Obama was elected, the Tea Party resurrected, America’s white veil was lifted and racism was no longer vintage. It’s not just Black and white anymore; it’s in color. Even we hate us.
America isn’t a post-racial society; we just had a post-racial moment. And that moment lasted the length of time FOX News actually referred to our president as President. On June 30, 2011, MSNBC’s Mark Halperin referred to our president as a “dick.” August 1, 2011, U.S. Congressman Doug Lamborn called our president a “tar baby.” In September 2009, Rep. Joe Wilson called our president a liar by yelling “You lie!” in front of Congress. I’m sure there was another noun he had in mind for Mr. Obama. But former Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid wasn’t afraid to toy with the noun while describing our president as a “light skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
What does Frank Ocean mean when he says “We made it in America”?
This thought wouldn’t leave me. I struggled with writing this column due to its provocative nature. But two weeks ago I had a conversation with my heroic ancestor, Luther Jackson, whom I hadn’t talked to in three years because he died in 2008. My grandfather met me in a dream and matter-of-factly said, “This racism just isn’t right, Tan (his nickname for me)”. He was practical like that. “I think someone needs to say something about it”. That someone is me, grandpa. This is my petition to our nation. Who will sign it?
Sweet Grandpa Luther, we’ll make it in America.
– Enitan Bereola, II
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“Not all tea-baggers are racist, but to deny the existence of widespread racism in the Tea Party “movement” is to deny a fairly significant element of what that “movement” is all about.” –Huffington Post
Bereola is the go-to style and etiquette impresario, public speaker and entrepreneur. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed BEREOLAESQUE: The Contemporary Gentleman & Etiquette book for the Urban Sophisticate. He is working on his follow-up, Guide to Ladies’ Etiquette from a Gentleman’s Perspective. Find him at his new website bereolaesque-online.com, or @bereolaesque on Twitter as well as his Facebook fan page.