09 February 2011

Voices and Soul

8 February 2011

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Editor

I had a conversation after the Super Bowl, Sunday, with a white progressive friend about Obama's pre-Super Bowl interview with O'Reilly. I appreciate this particular friend's tactic of playing Devil's Advocate; but it has gotten tiresome over the years; to the point I've accused this friend of actually advocating for his arguments. Regardless, he is intent on finding common ground with whatever opposition so that advances can be made, no matter how incremental; and it is that incrementalism that has always bothered me.

Where I saw O'Reilly barely able to temper his disdain for Obama, my friend saw O'Reilly has polite to a fault. The conversation devolved from there. We then discussed Fox News in general; I taking the position of Fox as being a powerful propaganda arm of the GOP; my friend pointing out evidence that is not true. We then debated about a Woman's Right to Choose; though a liberal, he has always been against abortion. He's a vegetarian and deems all life sacred, I will hand it to him, he does have some intellectual integrity; unlike my more reactionary acquaintances who oppose abortion, my friend also opposes the Death Penalty. He takes issue with, what he calls my, "inflammatory rhetoric", that I cannot expect to sway the anti-abortionists if I insist on referring to their position as "forced birth". Of course, calling someone a murderer for saving her own life is somehow not inflammatory. Regardless, if a law was passed to stop funding or treatment for any aspect of men's health, he would be at the front of whatever protest there was; yet, somehow, a microscopic mass of cells in a woman's womb can be more important than the woman. He doesn't exactly put it that way, but that is what I get every time we have this argument.

He then went on to discuss the advances racial minorities have achieved over the years, that by attrition, true freedom will occur; I brought up the anti-brown people laws passed and the insane numbers of minorities incarcerated to show that this incrementalism is not the success he insists.

My friend voted for Obama and considers him a great President; on that we agree. So how is it that two people who claim to be of the same persuasion so mightily disagree with the direction and success of reforms?

He sees the irrevocable change of rocks being worn away by the crashing of the sea; it may not happen in our lifetime, but change will indeed occur. I see that the rocks need to be smashed with sledge hammers; that change and freedom in the future mean little when folks are suffering now.

We may be friends, we may have the same concerns for the well being of the individual; and yet I cannot accept his safety in incrementalism. The gates need to be crashed and the walls of oppression need to be made to tumble down.

Waiting for Time to wear away oppression has never worked for those living in oppression; and it also is proved their great-great-great grandchildren won't experience the freedom that the argument of Time seems to assure.

We may have a Black President, as my friend points out as evidence of the great strides we've made; but when american latino families are murdered by white nationalist vigilantes, when black men and women are incarcerated in astronomical numbers, when income and housing inequality, when segregation are still prevalent; having a Black President is somewhat then, like a nice shiny ribbon on a gift.

The package looks nice, but the hate contained within is not negated by the beauty of the bow.

Going along to get along has never worked.

Booker T. and W.E.B.

“It seems to me,” said Booker T.,
“It shows a mighty lot of cheek
To study chemistry and Greek
When Mister Charlie needs a hand
To hoe the cotton on his land,
And when Miss Ann looks for a cook,
Why stick your nose inside a book?”

“I don’t agree,” said W.E.B.,
“If I should have the drive to seek
Knowledge of chemistry or Greek,
I’ll do it. Charles and Miss can look
Another place for hand or cook.
Some men rejoice in skill of hand,
And some in cultivating land,
But there are others who maintain
The right to cultivate the brain.”

“It seems to me,” said Booker T.,
“That all you folks have missed the boat
Who shout about the right to vote,
And spend vain days and sleepless nights
In uproar over civil rights.
Just keep your mouths shut, do not grouse,
But work, and save, and buy a house.”

“I don’t agree,” said W.E.B.,
“For what can property avail
If dignity and justice fail.
Unless you help to make the laws,
They’ll steal your house with trumped-up clause.
A rope’s as tight, a fire as hot,
No matter how much cash you’ve got.
Speak soft, and try your little plan,
But as for me, I’ll be a man.”

“It seems to me,” said Booker T.—
“I don’t agree,”
Said W.E.B.

--Dudley Randall

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