During this deep recession, and true to 400 years of Black history, we have a group of African American Black-haters and poverty pimps running all over the country selling their books, promoting their television and radio shows, elevating their speaking fees, and playing crabs-in-a-barrel by blaming President Obama for the high unemployment in the Black community.
Never mind that we’re in the deepest recession since the Great Depression, and in spite of that, President Obama has managed to create over 5 million jobs with a Republican congress kicking, screaming, and hanging on to his ankles every step of the way.
And never mind that under Bush the nation was hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs a month without these very same poverty pimps saying a word. And again, never mind that in the process of saving the nation from another Great Depression, President Obama also managed to take out Osama Bin Laden, a feat that eluded George W. Bush for nearly eight years. Bush’s failed effort in that respect contributed mightily to the economic situation that we currently find ourselves – in fact, it might have been a pretext to purposely bring us to this point in order to attack Social Security, Medicare, and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
But the poverty pimps and haters won’t tell us any of that, because they have their own agenda – a huge part of which is to only tell the people what they want to hear, and never, ever what they need to hear. So they conveniently neglect to tell us any of the things above, and they certainly won’t tell us about the things that we need to do for ourselves in order to mitigate our situation. That would be too much like “blaming the victim.” So at the risk of sending these pimps into shock, I’d like to address one of these issues myself – the image that we’re projecting to the world, and the impact it’s having on our ability to obtain employment.
Question: Why are Black People always portrayed negatively? We’re always portrayed as either grinnin’ like ches cats, or too cool to be trusted. Do we ever see Asians portrayed in this way? Now, I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy, but it’s a reality that we need to change.
What about that Western Union commercial of the dancing lady? On the surface it seems like all the sister is doing is dancing; but if every time we see a Black person it’s like this, it makes us look like we don’t have a brain in our head. No wonder nobody takes us seriously. This commercial may seem harmless but every time a Black person applies for a job the interviewer has this, or something like it, dancing around in the back of his or her head. We need to start thinking about this stuff, because image is everything – and this image is killing us.
The problem is not the sister herself. On the surface she’s just a sister dancing, and the message is even positive – she’s dancing because Western Union made it easier to send money to her child in college. But the BBQ, or watermelon, is in the image being projected. I guarantee you if they had an Asian in this commercial the image being projected would have been very different.
After repeatedly showing Black people in this light – always grinnin’, always dancing, and always being engaged is something frivolous, it sends a subliminal message to the world that creates a caricature of who we actually are. It suggests that we’re a mindless and frivolous people, or court jesters.
So yes, on the surface it simply looks like we see a sister dancing, but if a human resources person had just seen that commercial – then a commercial of an Asian woman sitting at a desk looking professional, or being portrayed as a doctor or scientist – then later, interviewed a Black woman and an Asian woman who are equally qualified for a job, which one do you think would be hired?
The most unique aspect of our culture is not our rhythm. It’s our creativity, and that’s a very important thing to remember, because when any cognitive scientist looks for intelligence in any animal, including man, the very first thing they look for is creativity. The reason for that is, the very same creativity that goes into the making of an Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, or John Coltrane, can easily be redirected toward becoming a Barack Obama, or finding a cure for cancer.
So simply having rhythm is not who we are – that’s who many want us to think we are. Having rhythm,”soul,” and even being cool is just the outward manifestation of our creativity and intellectual potential trying it’s best to break out of its shackles to express itself. A good example of that is the only thing I love more than writing is playing the saxophone, but my ability to think and express myself on paper springs directly from the very same source of creativity that allows me to play ‘Round Midnight’ on my horn.
It’s the very same thing. Even as I write this piece I feel like I’m playing a solo – it’s tickling the very same part of my soul.
All any individual is, is a big bundle of past experiences. The very same thing is true of cultures. All Jews are not just innately good businessmen, all Asians are not innately good at math and science, and all Black people don’t just naturally have soul.
We learn these things as we grow up. Every culture, as a result of it cultural experiences, tend to assume a cultural niche in society. It becomes known for those things that it specializes in. The Black culture has become known for music, sports, and art. But that’s only because those were the only areas of society in which we were free to participate. But now that has changed; so it’s time for us to break out of those artificial boundaries placed upon us and find out who we really are.
Maybe Johnny Cochran, Colin Powell, Dr. Mae Jemison, and Barack Obama are not the exception, but the rule.
So the way this sister in being portrayed in this Western Union commercial constitutes nothing short of allowing ourselves to be profiled, and not in the most flattering way.
It amounts to an updated version of Steppin Fetchitism, and it stifles our young people’s ability to see themselves in any other way. So as Black people – if for no other reason than for our children – we must never allow either ourselves, our children, or the world, to forget that Black people have much more to offer the world than simply jokes, jump shots, and rhythm.
By Eric L. Wattree