Tuesday, December 25, 2007




If I had to choose just one issue that I thought would do most to improve the Black condition, it wouldn't be more jobs, or more government assistance, or any of the other things that we generally hear our so-called leaders shouting into deaf ears. Thanks to Bush, the days of a benevolent government are over--we'll be lucky to just get social security. So we've got to be practical at this point, and recognize that the most important thing we can do to improve our condition is to become more independent and efficient thinkers. Once we do that, many of our other problems will resolve themselves.

What identifies this need as being so pressing is the tendency for so many of us to accept propositions simply because they sound witty, catchy, or fit conveniently into our comfort zone. When faced with such propositions, we tend to accept them at face value, rather than looking beneath the surface to see whether or not they standup to the test of logic. As a result, we often accept positions that seriously undermine our ability to move forward.

I was faced with a glaring example of that problem this morning during a casual conversation with one of my co-workers. He told me that he wasn't going to waste his vote on Senator Obama. When I asked him what made him think a vote for Obama would be wasted, he said, the Senator could never win the Democratic nomination due to America's tradition of White supremacy. I was quick to point out to him that while his theory might be true, Hillary is certainly not gaining much comfort from it.

When one considers the history of Black people in this country, my friend's position almost sounds reasonable on the surface, but when you look at the facts beneath the surface, it doesn't stand up to logical examination. His point of view assumes that all of White America is monolithic, and that's clearly not the case.

Whites are no more monolithic in their point of view than Black people. In fact, just to hold such a position adopts the very point of view that is the cornerstone of racism. Isn't that the exact proposition that Black people have been fighting to disprove for generations? When we use the phrase "driving while Black", aren't we criticizing what we contend is the White tendency to think that all Blacks are criminals? So why embrace the very same racist philosophy that has caused Black people so much pain over the years. How can we, on the one hand, insist on not being prejudged, then on the other, casually hang the label of racist on every White, man, woman, and child in America? The fact is, we can't--at least, if we want to remain logically consistent. Therefore, while it is true that a Black man has never been elected president of the United States, it cannot be said with any degree of certainty that a Black man never will. The only way that would hold true is if all members of any given race are, indeed, the same--in which case, we would also have to hold that the police are justified in stopping anyone who is Black.

The statement above is simple syllogistic Logic. If we hold that all members of any given race are the same, and some Whites are racists, therefore, it follows that all Whites are racists, we must also accept the proposition that since all people of a given race are the same, and some Blacks are criminals, that all Blacks are criminals. There's no way around it.

The fact that a Black man has never been elected president is due to thinking precisely like my friend's--flawed, racist, and inefficient. Yet, in spite of his racist ideas, he's not a bad guy, he's simply misinformed. The same is true in the White community. For the most part, people aren't bad, they're simply ignorant. But people grow, and attitudes change over time. In just my lifetime, there were places across this land where a Black man couldn't even sit down to eat anywhere near a White man--not to even mention a White woman. But now we have multiracial families all over America. And when I was a kid, my grandfather, who was from Louisiana, told me he wouldn't take me anywhere south of San Diego if his life depended on it. He said I wouldn't know how to act, and I'd probably get us both killed. But just like attitudes change, conditions also change. Today, Senator Obama is being cheered in some of the same locations that met Martin with attack dogs.

Today's Americans are simply trying to survive and protect the ones they love. They've become frightened over an America that's become unfamiliar to them, so they're ready to reach out to anyone that they think can restore their confidence in the country, and turn America into the kind of nation in which we can all truly be proud. And a great many of those people see Obama as the man who can do that, because his message is pro America, he inspires the soul, and his very life ratifies the promise envisioned by our founding fathers. He seems to be the right man, at the perfect time--and the American people feel a visceral connection to him. That's why this young Black man is being embraced by people across all ethnic, racial, political, and social lines.

In addition, the one service that George Bush and the Republican Party has provided the American people is giving them a glimpse of what an unguarded America could become. The Bush years have given the American people the opportunity to look over the precipice, and they didn't like what they saw. So now that America has truly been given a choice, the American people have chosen the forward-looking vision that Thomas Jefferson had for the nation, over the ugliness that George Bush has brought to these shores. So win or loose, Obama's message is beginning to resonate, and his very presence as a political force in this country speaks volumes about the basic character and political intent of the American people.

But ironically, what most threatens Obama's success is not White people, it's the twisted, slave-related mentality, of many Black people, and we've got to address that issue immediately. We simply must modify the way we think, and we don't have a lot of time to do it. In that regard, I'd like to address another dumb concept that many of us embrace--the ridiculous belief that Black people can't be racist. According to this theory, in order to be a racist one must also control the political and social power to commit racist acts. Therefore, the theory goes, since Blacks don't control power in this country, it's impossible for them to be racist.

It is nothing short of horrifying that so many people are so gullible that they can be persuaded to accept such an ignorant and self-serving position. Not only is it possible for Black people to be racist, but a strong argument can be made that many Black people are some of the most racist people in America against other Blacks!

Racism is a state of mind, nothing else--and it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with one's color, ethnicity, economic, or social position. The only thing that's required to be a racist is a narrow mind, and a limited ability to think. While it is true that a racist with power is in a better position to wield racist policies, a poor man with a gun and hatred in his heart can be just as racist, and to a victim, just as powerful. Even though he may be poor, that gun gives him power--the ultimate power--the power over life and death. So, if that man uses his gun to take the life of another based on race, isn't that a racist act? Of course it is--it's the racist act of a racist personality, regardless of what color he is. And unfortunately, much too often, Black people are turning that gun on themselves, both figuratively and literally, and the attitude of many Black people towards Obama is derived from that very same mindset.

And finally, there's yet another catchy little non-truism that serves to hold Black people back. It goes something like this--"You can't know where you're going unless you know where you've been." That sounds like the most profound kind of wisdom on the surface, but my only objection to it--besides the fact that it's not true--is the fact that it's generally used as a refuge for people who aren't interested in going anywhere in the first place. Many Black people tend to use this statement as an excuse to wallow in the past, and it also serves to distract our young people from keeping their eye on the ball. After all, how much knowledge of abuse is required before we're ready to move forward? By my count, we've been in deep "contemplation" for close to forty years now. When is it time to say, ok, enough is enough--let's get this train rollin'!

Granted, it's always good to know your history--in fact, all knowledge is good knowledge. But you can't allow yourself to live there. Many people who live by this philosophy depend on the accomplishments of "kings and queens" in Black history to boost their own self-esteem (and in many cases while passing a blunt). They also dwell on it to the exclusion of looking to the future. But they're being disingenuous. Many of these very same people who claim that royalty is an integral part of Black heritage, will also say that a Black man can never become president of the United States. Royalty doesn't think like that.

While there's nothing wrong with taking pride in Black history, one's primary focus should always be on what you're doing now, and what you intend to do in the future. Reminiscing about days of glory is not going to feed your kids, or get you anywhere. Let us look at it in a more graphic way--if you had only ten seconds on Earth to get as far as you could go, how many of those seconds would you use looking backward? That may seem like a ridiculous way of looking at the problem, but the fact is, our time on Earth is, in fact, limited. So asking ourselves how much of that precious time we want to waste looking backwards is a valid question. And if you're a sports fan, you might also want to ask yourself, how much time does a football player spend looking back at the one yard line?

Most concepts that seem complicated are actually quite simple when you break them down into analogous situations that you face on a daily basis. For example, when you get in your car in the morning, after starting your motor you glance over your shoulder to look for any obstructions. Then once you find that everything is clear and pull out into the street, you put your car into drive and focus on where you're going. If you tried to drive the twenty miles to work by looking over your shoulder, you'd never reach your destination. That's also true in life, and it's a problem that too many of us have in the Black community--we're so busy looking behind us that we can't see the beautiful vista that lies ahead. And that's exactly how we're undermining ourselves with respect to Senator Obama--we're so fixated on how things look behind us, that we can't see the possibilities of what lies before us.

So again, if we intend to remain a viable community, instead of just talking about it, we've got to start training ourselves to look forward. And the very first step in doing that is to stop allowing--in fact, depending--on other people to think for us. Many of those who would love to do our thinking for us have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Therefore, we should strive to become critical and independent thinkers in our own right.

Critical thinking involves thoroughly examining and probing for holes in the logic of anything presented to us as fact. Thereafter, if what you're told stands up to the rigors of scrutiny, then, and only then, should you allow it to past through your firewall--and it should be constantly subjected to reviewed every time new information becomes available.

If we learn to routinely examine everything we're told in that manner, we'll never have to worry about people like Bush telling us, "All dogs have teeth, and cats have teeth. Therefore, your cat is a dog." Wait--before you laugh, consider the following: "The enemy is from the Middle East. Iraq is in the Middle East. Therefore, Iraq is the enemy." Sound familiar?

The failure to recognize flawed logic can kill you--and more often than not, it does.

Eric L. Wattree

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