Monday, October 29, 2007


Like many, I was surprised to learn that Albus Dumbledore was gay. It was also interesting to see the reaction of those on the far-right. People talked of feeling betrayed by J.K. Rowling. People argued that she introduced politics into a children's novel series. Clearly, these folks haven't read any of the Harry Potter books, or paid attention to the commentary of the author. Rowling, first and foremost, made sure that her books reflected the importance of tolerance for the diversity of humanity (I mean this is a world with elves, goblins, trolls and hags, to name a few). She also made it clear, through her works, that she was not particularly a fan of authoritarian rule through government. Actually, the novels showed the shortcomings and out and out failures of government. Either way, politics have always been there.

Besides, it isn't as though Rowling decided that Dumbledore was gay at the time the questioner made his/her query. She has lived with these characters for more than a decade, so I am quite sure that Dumbledore has been gay in her estimation (imagination) from the off. And in all honesty, it's not that serious.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cosby is Right

As someone who has dedicated most of his educational life to the study of American history generally, and African American history particularly, I cannot help but think that contemporary African America has dropped the ball passed to us by our ancestors. When I think about the challenges that this community has weathered throughout the American historical narrative, I cannot understand how we seem to be

Frankly, I am disappointed in who we have become. It bothers me that at the turn of the 20th century, we as a people seemed united in the desire to prove to the world that we were the equal of every individual on the planet. We held in honor those who could make it through education and hard work. We scorned those who seemed to support, through their actions, those who appeared "to prove" our not being ready to take on the responsibility of full citizenship. And I think that the evidence is clear that those past generations did their jobs.

In her book of essays Racism 101, Nikki Giovanni asked (and I am paraphrasing) why black folks were letting the challenges of this society get to us now. We'd fought larger and more dangerous battles and came out on the other side. We helped this nation take its contract with her people seriously. The efforts of those black folks and their allies moved this nation forward. Why now does it seem that we have thoroughly lost our way? Why now have we come to embrace competitive consumption? Why now?

Pundits often talk about the notion of African American victimology, and I think that indeed there are those who call themselves our "leaders" who reinforce that sensability. However, I think that a good examination of African American history will reveal stories of triumph in the face of continual and sustained adversity. The aforementioned pundits want simply to act as though years of sustained adversity do not leave psychic scars that need to be tended and healed. The aformentioned "leaders" seem to be unable to move beyond the point of scarring in order to recognize the survival. And too many of us simply do not know our history to our detriment.

I think that Bill Cosby is right. In the midst of unimaginable plenty and material success, we are not moving forward as we should. I can only imagine if the opportunities that we enjoy now were present at the turn of 20th century, during the artistic renaissances throughout black communities in the 1910s and 1920s, or during the post WWII boom.

Too many of us have abandoned education. Too many of us have embraced absolute materialism. Too many of us have lost a sense of decorum while in public ("Black America's dirty laundry gets out of school around 2:30 in the afternoon"). Too many of us have become numb to violence that would not be outside of the realm of possibility in Iraq or Afghanistan.

No community outside of African America is equipped to save African America. As Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint have said, "Come on People." We are better than this. We have within our DNA the necessary materials to be our best selves regardless of the musings or rants of others. But it is our responsibility to act like we are living in an era of unprecedented opportunity. It is our responsibility to follow the lead of our ancestors and not let "no one turn us 'round." In the end, I may be disappointed in my people, but I still have faith that we can follow Cosby's call.

About That Last Post

I read with alarm this morning that Obama is planning on doing a tour through South Carolina with Donnie McClurkin. Now the Christianists say that abortion represents their proverbial line in the sand. My comparable issue is political gay bashing, something that McClurkin and his ilk are perfectly at home doing (all in the "name of the Lord").

I hope that Obama reconsiders this joint venture. To resort to working with a known opponent of the GLBT movement that Obama proclaims to support for the most part in order to drum up support in the SC black community is just plain dumb. I have virtually no patience for black folks who bash the GLBT community. And I am tired of these same people being offended by the comparisons between the GLBT and Civil Rights movements.

No, the two movements are not the same, but they share some common issues and common goals. For example, there were (are) religious tenets cited in opposition to the goals of both movements. There were (are) irrational and visceral reactions that the opponents of both movements held when confronted with the gains earned through the work of movement activists. There is also the common goal that people should be treated equally, and that people should be judged by the content of their characters.

I think that too many black folks look at homosexuality through a racial lens. For too many, white = Gay. And I doubt that there are many black folks who see white people as oppressed in any way, shape or form. To hear folks who look like the media constructed version of a gay person (white, male, educated, affluent and fit) talk about being oppressed because of "who he is" must sound quite hollow to the average black person who has struggled simply to get ahead.

And since so many black gay folk remain closeted or too concerned about "people knowing their business," this disconnection in the dialog will remain. If Obama has someone on his campaign staff who is gay (or better yet, black and gay), then I hope that person will come forward and let him know that seeking the black vote by these means removes the curtain from the audaciousness of hope and reveals something that is quite the opposite: the politics of fear and loathing.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's Obama

I have to admit that I was hesitant at first. I was concerned that if I said that I supported Barack Obama, then the response would be something akin to, "of course you do." Let me make this clear, I am happy to say that I support Obama, and not because he is African American (though that certainly caught my attention).

First and foremost, I love the fact that Obama is in an entirely different generation than all of the other candidates for POTUS. I am weary of the discussions about who did what in the 1960s. I am bored of the Vietnam and service questions. Second, I really like Michelle Obama. There is something about her that is simultaneously familiar and transcendent. It is as though she is the embodiment of "keeping it real." I would be quite comfortable with her as First Lady, something that rarely crossed my mind since I've been voting in POTUS elections (the 1988 election was my first). Third, Obama is post-Civil Rights. His world is familiar to me. It's one filled with a range of friends (racially, ethnically, politically, et. al), experiences, and expectations of excellence. No one can accuse Obama of being a racial huckster, and we have moved beyond the time for that (we never needed a time for it). Finally, Obama is substantive. His approach to a number of the issues that are important and relevant is measured and well thought out. There is no cowboy there.

The Obamas are adults. Who cares if HRC is manly or womanly enough to be POTUS? How about being an adult? How about displaying an actual range of emotions in front of a camera? I had the pleasure of meeting HRC in Brooklyn, NY back in 2005, and it was great. She was personable and funny. She was engaging, and she seemed genuinely interested in the work that I do (historic preservation), and understanding of the need for the preservation movement to be more diverse. Yet, when she stood at that podium a few minutes after that meeting, it was as though the person I'd just met retreated. The change was subtle, evident and disappointing. Adults have a range of emotions that do not require cameras or audiences to determine which one to display on call. Barack Obama strikes me as an individual who is both tough and sensative, just like an adult.

Each of the position papers that Obama has presented are well researched, reasoned and understandable considering the disparate nature of the various issues our country faces. I am ready for an intellectual to be at the helm. I am ready for an adult to run the country.

I would be lying if I didn't say that it does give me a huge sense of pride that an African American is seriously in the race for POTUS. That is not to diss Jackson or Sharpton, but they were never my cup of tea. I think it speaks volumes for our nation. It makes me proud all over again to be an American.

I look forward to an exciting primary season. I want Obama to step up his game. The HRC inevitability factor needs to be challenged heartily. But in the end, I am just glad that I lived to see the day when one of the major parties in the United States actually reflected the aspects of the diversity of this nation in its POTUS candidates. That is a part of the reason why I am a former member of the GOP (and don't fret, it was a single semester membership).

Obama in '08.