Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hey America, I’m sick and tired of African American men not being good enough for you

On behalf of President Obama, Muhammad Ali and my deceased grandfathers its time to start treating Black men with the same respect afforded to white men at birth

By John V. Moore

I am really pissed off and quite frankly hurting. Today President Obama released his long form birth certificate to answer questions about where he was born. I can’t remember this being an issue for any other American president or presidential candidate in recent history (there were some concerns about Martin Van Buren & Chester Alan Arthur). While Obama’s opponent in 2008, Senator John McCain, was in fact born in Panama, it is President Obama who was forced to prove he was born here.

The message to all people of color, especially African American men is: “You are not good enough.”

That’s my take away and the only way to change my mind is through actions, not reassurances that this has nothing to do with race. This is a very sad day in America and everyone needs to reflect on what just happened.

Despite growing up apart from his mother, being raised by his grandparents, graduating from two Ivy League colleges, serving as the first African American President of the Harvard Law Review, being a community organizer, teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, serving in both the Illinois and United States Senate, being elected the first Black President of the United States and more importantly being a role model for American fathers, he still had to prove he was “good enough” to be considered a real American.

He was held to a different standard, he was “othered.” The legal document he previously provided, his Certificate of Live Birth, was “not good enough.”

While its easy to marginalize the birthers, led by Donald Trump, the media deserve a plethora of blame. The fact that they kept giving him a platform, analyzed the accusation and re-aired it, is despicable, just despicable. The media is complicit in this birther hysteria, there is no justification for the airtime Trump got for making outlandish statements about Obama’s birth certificate. Dan Rather got fired for mistakes he made reporting on George W. Bush’s military record, while NBC pimps Trump’s birtherism for ratings for “The Apprentice.”

Why one standard for Rather and one standard for Trump? My take away is that we are being told that Obama “is not good enough” to be afforded the same respect Bush was.

Can anyone tell me what documents that George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Baines Johnson and John F. Kennedy were forced to provide regarding their birthright citizenship?

Now that Obama has directly addressed the birther issue by presenting his long form birth certificate, Trump has moved on to Obama’s academic records, demanding that he release them. The implication is that the President was not smart enough (read “good enough”) to get into to two Ivy League institutions. Many African Americans in college or corporate American must constantly prove that they are qualified and not some affirmative action beneficiary. When white folks get into college or get jobs it’s assumed that it was based wholly on merit, while the assumption for Black folks is that we can’t get into school or get hired without affirmative action.

Make no mistake affirmative action has helped many people of color as well as women and it is still necessary, but when someone distinguishes his or herself as the best and the brightest, as Obama did at Harvard Law School, its because he/she deserved it.

This “not good enough” treatment for Black men is nothing new, in addition to the well documented episodes experienced by historical figures over the years, there are millions of personal stories that shared by our ancestors that really hit home.

In his autobiography Muhammad Ali noted that although he had just won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics and heralded as an American hero, he was denied service at a “whites-only” restaurant in Louisville. You see, even though he represented America in the Olympics he “was not good enough” to eat in a restaurant.

Flora Lee Burford, Barbara (Burford) Moore, Bruce Burford, John Burford

John Burford, my deceased maternal grandfather, was part of the “Greatest Generation” having served in World World II, but when he returned home to Joliet, Illinois, he was not allowed to eat in downtown restaurants, join the YMCA or go swimming at Nowell Park Tuesdays through Sundays. He and his family were allowed to swim there on Monday mornings, because the pool was cleaned on Monday afternoons. Grandpa Burford served his country, but he was “not good enough” to be afforded the freedoms he fought to protect.

Samuel Moore

Samuel Moore, my deceased paternal grandfather, did not serve in WWII, rather he was a brick mason in Selma, Alabama. During the war he found himself working alongside German prisoners of war who, in accordance with the 1929 Geneva Convention, were assigned to labor details throughout the south. At lunch time the German prisoners of war were allowed to eat inside local restaurants. Grandpa Moore? Despite being a hard working American man who was raising a family, he wasn’t “good enough” and had to eat outside.

The people who wouldn’t allow Grandpa Burford to join the YMCA or Grandpa Moore to eat inside were pillars of their respective communities and raised kids, many of whom are most likely grandparents now. I often wonder what stories did they pass down, what lessons they taught future generations, what were their legacies?

As I said earlier the media is complicit in this, in my mind they wear the same jacket that Trump and the birthers wear. At this point I don’t want to them to drop the story, I want them to spend as much time looking at the motivations of the birthers and the role that race played in this controversy.

Doing so will send a simple message to President Obama, Muhammad Ali, the late John Burford, the late Samuel Moore and African American men in general. . . “you are good enough.” We know that, we just would like you to acknowledge that.

1 comment:

Vincent Truman said...

Brilliant piece, sir. Thank you for this.