Tag: race

Barack Obama and his family at his election victory speech Nov. 4, 2008, in Chicago’s Grant Park. We are not the nation I thought we were becoming as I watched that night. (Everett Collection via Shutterstock)

Donald Trump is like a guy who takes a dump on half the yards in the neighborhood, somehow gets elected neighborhood association president, and then says it’s time for everyone to unite behind him.

Trump crapped on immigrants. He crapped on women. He crapped on President Obama. He crapped on you, even if you don’t think so. He crapped on America. He crapped on the world.

He denied, then bragged, then denied some more, despite proof. And yet, he won, because half of those in the neighborhood who didn’t get this treatment loved him. Now, he and his inner circle have urged the rest of the neighbors to come together, to heal and move forward — and without apologizing to any of them. Really? Forgive and forget? No way. The arrogance of expecting the people he dumped on to meet him all the way, not just halfway, would be mind-boggling if it were anyone else. But he has flung so much poo in getting the best of the party that owes its current existence to poo-flinging, we are well beyond what we once considered normal.

I have watched every U.S. presidential inauguration since Nixon’s second. That streak ends Friday. Call it a boycott if you’d like, although almost no one will notice. But in a still-defining-itself #notmypresident form of personal protest, I am doing my small part to refuse to normalize and legitimize Trump’s presidency.

Yes, I have read pieces — most of them by people seemingly lacking self-awareness regarding the blind spots inherent in their privilege — deriding the substance of, and the hashtag within — the previous paragraph. Many such pieces popped up amid post-election demonstrations across the country and the anti-Trump backlash on social media. A main point is, “Not your president? How’s that supposed to work?” My answer today: That’s for me to figure out. You can treat as normal and legitimate the people and events of your choosing.

As it turns out, I have plenty of company in some or much of my thinking. Dana Milbank and I have similar opinions on the Trump team’s angry call for respect. On the question of the legitimacy of Trump’s ascendancy, Paul Krugman and I (and Rep. John Lewis) largely agree. For a far more eloquent expression than I am capable of writing, I recommend Adam Gopnik’s The Music Donald Trump Can’t Hear as a foundation for what’s to follow below.

Despite Trump’s insistence that he “will be president for all Americans,” there is no evidence that he is even remotely interested in proving it, in reassuring marginalized people that he is a man of his word. In fact, he has been known for decades as a selfish opportunist who is decidedly not a man of his word. As someone who has enjoyed the privilege of being a white male from birth, I consider it my responsibility to speak — for myself and for those who are now more vulnerable — about why I will not acknowledge his inauguration Friday.

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Undefeated

The Undefeated is finally with us. The website that bills itself as “the premier platform for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture” launched Tuesday after a long time in development. If you think 33 months from birth to first day of publishing stories required patience on the part of those involved — and those waiting to read those stories — consider this quote from managing editor Raina Kelley.

“It’s only been the past 125 years that African-Americans have had any regular access to the printing press,” Kelley said. “All real forms of expression African-Americans excelled at when we didn’t have access to the printing press, we want to bring back into the fold. We don’t want to limit to the written word because [African-Americans] have not wanted to limit ourselves to the written word.

“One of the fears is that people are going to think that everything is going to be a screed against institutionalized white power, like “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” or somber and guilt-inducing. If we need to do that, we can do that. But we didn’t want to place limitations on ourselves. We wanted to get this blank slate. We want to be able to push boundaries with spoken word, music, whatever. … We want to match subject matter to the form we think fits it best.”

The video “We Are The Undefeated” released before the launch made it a pretty good bet that those words about not limiting the site’s coverage to the printed word wasn’t idle talk.

Kelley’s comments reminded me of Alice Walker’s “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” and Walker’s exploration of the roots of her creativity.

Walker puzzles over this as a young woman, until one day she is standing in one of the Smithsonian museums, looking at a quilt displayed with a note that reads, “an anonymous Black woman in Alabama, a hundred years ago.”

Right then, Walker knew exactly where her artistic sense had come from: her mother and her grandmother and the women who came before them.

Though they had not received the education Walker had been privileged to earn at Spelman College and Sarah Lawrence College, they were every bit as creative as she was discovering herself to be. In her grandmother’s quilts, in her mother’s lavish gardens were bountiful expressions of artistry – expressed through the vehicles that were available to them as poor, uneducated black women in the Jim Crow South.

Walker’s recognition of her foremothers’ creativity leads her to ruminate on women’s artistic traditions in general – from the domestic arts of quilt making and gardening to the few written texts that have been passed down by women. Walker sings the praises of Phillis Wheatley, the slave who is widely recognized as the first African American writer, male or female, and she wonders about Frances Harper, Nella Larsen, and her patron saint, Zora Neale Hurston.

Source: Alice Walker: “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens”

Kelley’s remarks took me a long way back — to my discovery of Walker and the rich soil from which her collection of essays grew. They took me back to another point in time — early in my journalism career, and my too-slow recognition of how white most American newsrooms were, and how that shaped coverage. Kelley’s words reminded me of the many uncomfortable moments along the way toward a greater appreciation for the privilege to participate in journalism in ways inaccessible to so many from birth.

Her comments resonated with me for many reasons — because I’d read Alice Walker all those years ago, and Toni Morrison, and “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” and Ralph Wiley, and Harry Edwards, and because I’d read and heard Michael Wilbon, Howard Bryant, and Bomani Jones, and Jemele Hill, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, and J.A. Adande, and others (but not enough). Kelley’s point of view connected with me after years of following social media accounts that underscore so many truths behind what she said, and what Walker wrote, and even what was stitched into that quilt in Alabama that we cannot see with the naked eye, and certainly not the closed one.

In two days, The Undefeated has published powerful stories, including “The Waco Horror,” which will sicken and outrage even those who are well aware of the history of racism and lynchings in the Southern U.S. — even as it gives us an early look at The Undefeated’s promise of unconventional storytelling.

At a time when thousands of former journalists are working in other fields because of the ever-shrinking number of opportunities to earn a living telling stories, it’s exciting to see a new outlet emerge, even if it was a long time in coming. Having hustled to meet daily deadlines throughout my career, covering all of my adult life, I’m mindful of the fact that the work is just beginning for The Undefeated, even after its 33 months of preparations.

I wish them well, and much success in their constant gardening and quilting.

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