Not So Quiet Today...
WHAT??? I had to do a double take. I put my glasses on, I took them off again, and then I had to check a calendar! Is it 2009 or 1969? I couldn't believe my eyes, yet this editorial cartoon was printed in TODAY'S New York Post. I usually don't comment on stuff like this especially in this forum, but this is one time I can't (and won't) hold my peace.
Whatever the intent was (or wasn't), this cartoon proves to me that this country still doesn't "get it" about what images and references like these conjure up in the hearts and minds of citizens of color. For me it took me back to footage I saw as a small child of other children being sprayed with fire hoses and chased by dogs. Of heavy set angry white men with red faces and southern accents shouting about who gets to go to school where. It took me to a West Virginia elementary school classroom where I first heard the phrase, "Black is beautiful, but White is right," from a fellow 3rd grader. It reminded me of being put in the position of being asked to choose one group of friends over another in high school. It reminded me of campus parties where the police prevalence was ever present in anticipation of some sort of riot breaking out while on the other side of campus riots sometimes did break out... I could go on, but I've made my point.
My first reaction was outrage, then an almost overwhelming sadness. It's disheartening to me that no matter how much African Americans achieve it will never be enough to change the hearts and minds of some people. And while it is what it is, it's still a source of profound sadness to me. Here, 40 YEARS LATER, and not even achieving the office or President of the United States is enough to dispel the stereotypes of old. What a sad, sad commentary on our society... I'd like to use another work, but sad is all I have at the moment.
Before I could fully process the situation my email was flooded! Apparently a lot of people were feeling the same way. There were all sorts of comments - calls for a public apology, to have the artist fired, to bombard the newspaper with phone calls, the whole nine. There was one lone voice however that got my attention. He's usually the antagonist in this particular email group, but he does make you think. He said we should ask ourselves what the President would do, then follow suit. Don't even dignify it with a response. And quit buying the paper - nothing speaks louder than green (or the lack thereof)!
This got me thinking. In the past every time something offensive has been said or done the African American community's reaction was always protest and outrage. Understandably so, but how effective is it in this day and age? In the 60's that kind of protest was effective, but it's a new day. Not only that, it's become expected of us. Think about it. How many times do you see the images on television and in the movies of the angry black man or the "sista" with an attitude? It's expected that if something happens we are going to "go off." It's old and tired. It's time to paint a different picture. To quote one of my girlfriends, "sometimes you can show 'em better than you can tell 'em."
I took my thoughts a step further. Of all the things that I am, African, African American, a Woman, a writer, etc, I am first and foremost a Follower of Jesus Christ. My first question in situations like this needs to be 'What would Jesus do?' Not taking anything away from those who have gone on before me and the sacrifices they made so I could enjoy what I do now, but Jesus is now my example. He had more opportunities that anyone to be outraged, to protest, yet even in those last moments as false accusations were made about Him, as insults were hurled at Him, and finally as He lay dying the death of a common thief. Yet He never said a word in His own defense. He never retaliated with anger though He would have been justified. His only words were filled with grace, forgiveness and love. Why? Not because He was the Son of God, but because regardless of what was being said about Him, to Him, He never lost sight of who He was! WOW! How awesome is that? This turned my whole day around! I went from outrage and sadness to peace and joy.
Bottom line is - someone calling you a monkey, or anything other than what you are, doesn't make it so unless you allow it to! All of a sudden the power is back in my court and I make a choice to use it for the glory of my Great Example.