By Cheryl Gittens-Jones, author of Being Black: Being Human
Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind. - George Orwell
Last year, at a Town hall meeting in New Orleans, a young African-American boy asked President Obama, “Why do people hate you? And why, aren’t they supposed to love you, if God is love?” The President was taken off-guard but was direct and honest. He explained that people were hurting because of the economy and because he was President the anger was directed at him. He was half right but we all know that there is more to it.
In 2007 a Caucasian woman shared a story with me regarding her response to a black man walking in a parking lot. She said she and her kids were in the car getting ready to leave when she saw him coming towards them. Automatically, she told me, she locked her car door. Her kids immediately drew attention to her reaction. They schooled her on why her action was prejudiced. Embarrassed she realized what she had done and drove off. The black man went about his business without a clue.
I was surprised she felt comfortable enough to share this story with me, a black woman. This is one Caucasian woman who learned something about herself regarding her view of race in America. How many of us, black, white or from other races, are as willing to truly assess our own attitudes and actions with regards to race in this country?
Most in the media, even black journalist are afraid to directly call out the huge elephant in the room. They dance around the edges acting like blatant racism is not happening. But I feel it in my gut: like a sinking feeling with butterflies constantly fluttering around in the middle. I want and need it to go away but.it.is.not. My husband travels for work and I worry constantly about his safety even in a majority white state in the North East. He went to lunch the other day and overheard a white man on the phone talking about all the disgusting ‘n****rs’ and they need to go.
Where and why has all the goodwill gone?
Like many, I had much hope for change after millions went to the polls to push Barack Obama over the top to win in November 2008. Not even Sarah Palin and her minions could put a damper on the outpouring of goodwill that came from around the world and within this country when we inaugurated our new President. Now, a year later, I find myself praying with a sense of urgency for my husband’s protection every day.
How did this happen so quickly and why?
We were struck in 2007 when our daughter was exposed to the ‘n’ word on one of her school buses. She was the only African American on the bus. Because of our long conversations about race at home she was able to talk about and share her feelings regarding the incident when she got home.
When I shared the story about the bus incident with other parents, all white, I was surprised to learn that they had never talked about the use of the ‘N’ word with their kids. I realized at that moment that most white folks in this country do not have to talk about race to their kids if they do not want to. For most of them this is not a reality in their lives. Those in the majority never have to worry about the feelings of those in the minority. Nevertheless, it was heartwarming to see that the moms, I talked with about the incident, were open to listening and hearing my side of things. A couple of them even asked me for storybook titles about kids of color to read to their kids.
The other day my daughter and I were walking to the Post Office and someone yelled, ‘black bitches!!” at us from a truck as it drove by. Recently, there was a report on the news about a mixed race couple being attacked while out for a walk. The report said the white male attacker asked the man what he was doing with a white woman and when the couple did not respond he followed them in a car and then shot them both. Ironically, the white woman died and the black man survived.
Barack Obama won but it appears he even loses when he wins. When my husband wins he also loses because something else inevitably falls apart. Welcome to the world of the black man: same crap different day.
The color of the President’s skin should not be the deciding factor in whether he succeeds or fails: his policies should.
If George Orwell were alive today he would have ample material for a new work about America.
I am truly scared for my black husband.
Excerpt from a novel in progress entitled Barack Obama, he.is.my.husband: a black stay-at-home mom’s take on race and politics in the age of Obama
Cheryl Gittens-Jones is 47 years of age, a writer, poet, novice photographer, a wife and a stay-at-home mom. Born in Barbados, West Indies she is a resident of USA. She has gained recognition in Who’s Who in American Colleges, USA Today’s All-USA College Academic Team 1996 and 1997, gained a Phi Beta Kappa award for her sculpture, a Mount Holyoke research grant to Senegal, West Africa, and a Word James Baldwin Playwriting prize for her play Shaduhs Uh Voodoo, awarded by Faculty Five College Inc at Amherst Massachusetts. The play was presented to the Five College area as a result of the award in 1998. It had a previous reading in 1996. The work was produced at Mount Holyoke College as her final project for graduation March 1999.
She has done interviews in connection with Shaduhs Uh Voodoo on All Things Considered (NPR), in the Boston Globe, the Axis Online Hampshire Gazette and WMUA UMASS Radio in Massachusetts, the Sunday Sun newspaper in Barbados, and made a guest appearance on the talk show T. P Parked on CBC (the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation) in Barbados.