You can’t hear me …

… but right now I’m speaking with a Negro dialect.  Because I want to have one.

Right.  Just one of the many things that have served to piss me off in the last few weeks, just one of the things that have managed to silence me almost completely.  I still can’t write about some of those things, don’t know if I’ll ever figure out words for some of those things.  But I can definitely say a few things about Negro-ness.

Because it’s not just Harry Reid, you know.  The 2010 Census started this week, folks way up in Alaska somewhere got to see the new census form that has taken an interesting, troubling and misguided step into the past by returning “Negro” to the list of choices for “Race.”

The Census Bureau says that “Negro” was added back to the form as a ‘term of inclusion.’  “Many older African-Americans identified themselves that way, and many still do,” said Jack Martin, a spokesman for the Census Bureau.

Yeah.  My grandmother was about a hundred years old when she died in 2003.  And certainly there were times when I heard her use the word Negro … but not as a way to seriously, respectfully refer to herself or any other black person.   I’ve heard lots of people use the word.  As a mocking endearment, as a joke, as an indication that someone is way behind the times, as an insult.

But it’s clearly too much to expect the census folks to figure this one out.  Especially when we’ve got Harry Reid with his Negro-dialect-can-he-really-be-so-stupid-to-have-said-that bullshit.

Feh.

For the last two weeks I’ve had to hear about what a failure Obama’s presidency has been. His whole presidency. Apparently.  At nine months, the news told me what his first year had been like. At a year, I’m being slapped in the face with the failure of an entire four-year term.

In the lead-up to the State of the Union address, the political analysts kept saying we’d need to hear a “conciliatory tone” from Obama, that he’d really need to extend an olive branch across the aisle.  I’m sorry, but what does he have to be conciliatory about?  Oh, right, Scott Brown got elected (don’t get me started) and that means the president’s been smacked down, shown the writing on the wall, brought low.

Because that’s what this is about, isn’t it?  Mr. My Uppity President has (finally!) been put in his place.

I haven’t done the research, so I’m open to having someone else point me to the source material that refutes what I’m about to say, but I don’t recall ever hearing this kind of scolding language used with presidents past.  Even when our last president was at his lowest, no one was telling him he’d gotten too big for his britches and would have to make nice with his betters.  No one talked about him with the kind of angry-parent-to-a-grown-acting-child voice I hear being used now.

I was happy not to hear the demanded “conciliatory tone” in Wednesday’s speech, was happy to hear a lot of what Mr. My President had to say, happy to see some members of the GOP act like grown folks and clap for things that maybe not every single one of their constituents would have wanted them to clap for.

And then there was Justice Alito’s frowning head-shake and his mouthed “Not true,” during the speech.

I don’t care whether or not Samuel Alito agrees with things the president says.  What I care very much about is his Joe Wilson impersonation, about the Joe Wilson Effect that seems to be blossoming all over the place.  The level of disrespect that is shown to this president stuns and saddens me … even as I know I am being naive to be stunned and saddened.  Harry Reid was right about Obama being a viable candidate because of his light skin and his speech, but no matter how light his skin, the President is still a black man.  No matter how non-Negro his “dialect,” he is still a black man.  And in this country that still means things it has meant for centuries.  And one of the ways that is playing out is in this unashamedly rude, disrespectful, condescending, insulting talk and behavior from all sides.

And one of the ways it plays out reminds me of growing up in that small town in northern New York, where my family and the other family were the only black families in town and everyone felt the need to tell me and tell me and tell me just how much they didn’t see me as a black person, how I was the same as a white person in their eyes.  Who were they trying to convince?  Surely not me.  Today, we keep hearing that our nation is suddenly, magically, “post racial.”  As if such a thing were even desireable, let alone possible.  Chris Matthews bumbled himself into a version of that right after the State of the Union by saying (and saying and saying) that he actually forgot the president was black.  Because, you see, the speech was so good it enabled Matthews to forget he was listening to a black man … because a black man shouldn’t be able to give a speech like that. 

Good thing Obama didn’t want to have his Negro dialect on display Wednesday.

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12 thoughts on “You can’t hear me …

  1. And how about Obama in the lion’s den when he took on the Republicans in their own turf. Wow!
    It’s interesting too to watch Morning Joe go after the President and there on Friday sat Doris Kerns Goodwin who pointed out very diplomatically, that no, this year for Obama was NOT a failure, but like JFK it’s a year of learning to be president.
    I would like to see us out marching for Obama and sanity.
    Enough with the demonizing!
    YES WE CAN!
    Bonnie

    1. Thanks, Molly. I have always had a hard time expressing my anger. My response is always to silence myself, to stuff my anger down underneath things. I have to say that blogging has really helped me find the voice of my anger. If I’ve gotten nothing else out of this experience, I consider that a huge gain.

  2. I Googled “bush will have to take a conciliatory tone” and got 129,000 results, but I don’t know how many of those reflect anyone *instructing* him to take a conciliatory tone.

    Of course, I don’t know if anyone instructed Obama to, either, though I confess I can pretty easily picture the aides of either one of them saying “Boss, you’ll have to take a conciliatory tone.”

    At any rate, I didn’t think Obama’s State of the Union address was conciliatory at all. I thought he spoke very strongly, and I liked how directly he asked the Republican members of Congress to quit obstructing things on principle.

    I think the media love to take a small bit of data and make a huge pronouncement based on it; we see it every day, and so it is not surprising or disturbing to me that anyone is saying Obama’s whole presidency is a failure; I do think any politician is subject to that, and if he has a series of successes, then they’ll say he’s going down in history as the best president ever, and that probably won’t be right, either.

    However, it is my gut feeling that a lot of the Republican obstruction has its roots in racism, and that is very disturbing to me.

  3. In the interest of science, I also Googled “obama will have to take a conciliatory tone” and got 94,100 results. Of course, there were two different Bushes, and Obama is only one year into his presidency, so you may be on to something.

  4. Argh, sorry, promise this is the last one! You are DEFINITELY on to something when it comes to the disrespectful stuff. It is blatant and ugly, and I assume entirely due to racism. Well, maybe one percent due to the general decline in civility in our society, but overwhelmingly due to racism, I think.

  5. I’m really glad you’re wring about this, Stacie.

    I can’t help but think that a lot of the disrespect–as well as outright fear and hatred–of Obama that I’ve heard is rooted in racism.

  6. Pingback: The January Just Posts « collecting tokens

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