Monday, February 2, 2009

Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

First off, congrats on your historic election. I figured at some point we'd finally have an African American U.S. President, but like so many other Blacks I just never thought it would happen in my lifetime!!! Once again, I thank our White American allies for rejecting the usual fear tactics and allowing progress to come thru, along with the multitude of Black and Brown people, canes and wheelchairs included, who helped make your victory and ours a reality. Never before have we seen such participation in the presidential electoral process. Even Rapper extraordinaire, Ludacris took a break from his gangsta caricature to get involved in the Georgia senatorial race. Whether or not a democrat gets the seat doesn't matter, at this point. It's the fact that Lude did his part.

Of course, your inauguration is yet another triumphant event that will no doubt fill our eyes with tears of joy. Your election win felt like New Year's Eve countdown, so I can only imagine the overwhelming sense of pride and retribution that's about to warm our hearts and soothe old wounds, come January 20th! Nevermind the controversy over your pick for the inauguration pastor. You don't have to say it. I'll say it for you-- Rev. Wright blew it big time by not only betraying his own 'son', but also by coming off as a bitter, vengeful buffoon with no regard to the delicate politics of electing our very first Black President. (Even Minister Farrakhan was wise enough to stay low key for the sake of brotherhood and mass solidarity.) As ego-driven as he obviously is, not only did Rev. Wrong missed out on becoming the first African American to give the official blessing to a newly-elected President, he cheated us out of witnessing an adopted father baptize yet another significant turn in a young man's life. Not to mention, he most likely won't be selling too many books. That's if any publishers are still interested in what he has to say. Nevertheless, the choice to have an evangelical pastor do the honor says less about your possible reservations about a specific population but more about your political savoir faire. Seems to me you're merely trying move from right to left in a manner that doesn't cause too much panic among those who see America through narrow lens and to transcend the particulars that make us different by showcasing instead what brings us together. I get it. We get it. Those who don't will later, once they see the benefits of thinking outside the box.

In the meantime, I, along with what is now said to be 98% of Americans--and that's not including the other side of the globe--am counting the days for Bush's final date in Office. Can we stand it any longer? And has there ever been a time when the whole world waited impatiently for the final ousting of a hugely overrated leader, other than George W. Bush? Hoover, maybe? Mugabe? Jong-Li? Al-Bashir? Britney Spears?

But this leads to what I really want to address which is our tendency to turn hope into messiah. While I'm impressed by all the well-deserved fuss over you and your promise to bring change, I'm concerned about Black folks, especially, mistaking you for The Second Coming. We have a habit of praying for this and for that, and when one of us comes along, appearing as though he or she is immune to the racist and corrupt machine, we sit back and wait for miracles to start happening on their own without realizing that we are the miracle and that it's through our organizing and taking action in our personal lives that really makes change happen. Still, your pen alone can help start the ball rolling. So here're a few suggestions I'd like you to consider--

1. Call a meeting between you and the Congressional Black Caucus to go over issues that have been plaguing our communities, including skillful Black men being passed over for trade jobs in preference to illegal immigrants;

2. Hold all council members representing inner-city neighborhoods accountable for the on-going cocktail parties and expensive cars while regular folk still have to deal with high crime rates, poor services, and gentrification; replacing them, if you need to, with officials who are less impressed by bling and motivated, instead, by affordable rent and community safety;

3. Recruit progressive superintendents, principals, educators and counselors for our schools. Increasing teacher salaries is cool, but the problem doesn't go away as long as the curriculum and mindset still works against Black children. You said it yourself in your last book how our schools are merely holding pins, so please don't go back on your words. Talented teachers like me escaped from the public school system because of the educational handcuffs placed on us that limited our sense of creativity and natural know-how. To put it bluntly, sir, young people don't give a damn about degrees and licenses, not when teachers are viewed as merely messengers of lies, oblivious to the realities outside of the classroom;

4. Make family court more father-friendly. I understand and respect your challenging Black fathers, in particular, to step up to the plate. But most separated fathers do want to do the right thing. It's just that we want to be allowed to play the parent role without constant interference from the mothers. So by telling us to come back home, you're leaving out thousands of heartfelt stories involving fathers who find returning home an unhealthy option. Yet they still want to be good, responsible dads but are not allowed to see their children for personal reasons and whose pleas are ignored by the courts;

5. Create a task force that will deal directly and unapologetically with the plight of Black males; and don't just make it look good on paper. Use the same exceptional campaign savvy for obtaining the Presidency to not merely talk about what's wrong with us but actual policies that address the psychosis that goes on in da hood that's merely a reflection of our issues with poverty, poor or no parenting skills, miseducation, physical and mental health matters, fear of reporting crime, classism (Black flight), and internatlized racism. And when I say 'task force', please don't just send suit n ties to fix the problem. We have ordinary folks right here who can do extraordinary things, if given the opportunity;

6. Create another task force that will once and for all address the homophobia in our Community and the Church's unwillingness to deal with the fact that denial and avoidance play a direct role in down low behavior;

7. Help stop police brutality and the disproportionate number of incarcerated Black males that only serve as fuel for the prison bizness, and don't be afraid of being creative about rehabilitation either. We can save a whole lot of taxpayers' money by sending Black inmates south of the gumbo to help rebuild New Orleans' 9th ward than by sending them upstate to become even more demonized;

8. Make high-class politicians give up their secret low-rent apartments to folks who are being put out on the street because they can't afford paying $2,000 a month for a studio;

9. Keep real superdelegates like Al Sharpton, Maxine Waters, Michael Moore and Dr. Adelaide Sanford close by so you don't lose sight of the prize;

10. Use the plight of African Iraqis as an opening for diplomatic talks;

11. Meet with Russell Simmons about having a real Hip Hop summit that's not merely about rappers stroking each other's egos but to come up with active--emphasis on active--policies that will push record companies to allow more balance in Black music and to finally put an end to the exploitation of Black females in videos. And if the bizness motto is sex sells, then have the male rappers themselves drop it like it's hot and see how that goes;

12. Remind your domestic anti-terrorism people that it was a White male named Timothy McVeigh back in 1995--six years prior to 9/11--who helped bomb Oklahoma City and to stop assuming that only males with darker skin complexion are prone to causing such menacing acts;

13. If the Hispanic Caucus brings their own list to you, ask them what they plan on doing about the racismo in their community rituals, hiring policies and media, in return;

14. Tell Israel occupation is not a peace treaty and that the African holocaust is still going on;

15. Support progressive Black television so that buffoonery is no longer the standard;

16. Don't discontinue AIDS and inner-city afterschool programs to help balance the national budget, just make them more relevant and accountable;

17. Don't let our mayors just be trophies;

18. Don't let the System handcuff our trophies;

19. Don't forget to address The Trail of Tears;

20. Help my mother keep her house.

And since you plan on meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez, how about adding Rene Garcia Preval to your short list? After all, it was a Haitian who founded the city of Chicago; it was Toussaint L'Ouverture who inspired the American slave revolts, and it was Haiti who taught Latin America how to fight, in the first place.

I don't expect you to accomplish all this during your first term. I imagine our economy, ending the invasion of Iraq and helping establish a Palestine state will take priority. But please don't forget to address the issues that affect those who look more like you. You can play it off like you're just visiting Bed-Stuy, Compton, or Port-au-Prince for that matter, for decorations sake, so as not to make conservative and poor Whites nervous. We'll understand. It's part of the job to be that diplomatic.

No comments: