BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
"I think you experienced discrimination as a black child in school and as a result you project those feelings onto most everything you see. Its a terrible thing that so many black children were made to feel stupid in school and terrible that prejudice still continues to this day. But you're a grown man with many accomplishments. Isn't it time you moved beyond that childhood discrimination."
Kat, you’re laboring under a grossly erroneous assumption here. Yes, I’ve felt anger and frustration over the stupidity of bigots. But I've NEVER felt any resentment or any other affects from the discriminatory traditions in this country other than a sense of profound superiority due to a lifelong recognition of the childishness and transparent insecurity from which bigotry stems.
You've speculated about the downside of the affects of the Black experience, but now let us look at the upside. Consider how reinforcing it must have been to my young ego to recognize that I was intellectually superior to everyone I met who engaged in discrimination and/or bigotry. And consider the practical side. I've spent my entire life having to outwit bigots. There's got to be some intellectual benefit from that, don't you think?
So I’m not the least bit bitter as a result of my background and experiences. On the contrary, I'm of the opinion that adversity has made me more, rather than less, so I wouldn't trade in my hood rat background to be the son of a billionaire, because it made me, me, and I'm convinced that most educated Black people of my generation feel that way - though, they might not let you know it.
I view the Black experience in America from the perspective of a detached human being observing the social interactions of an ant farm. While I don't like seeing people hurt or injured, every since childhood I have ALWAYS found the insecurity of bigots both fascination, and very instructive. It gives me an insight into people that I doubt you have. For example, I often observe (with great amusement) the lingering vestiges of cultural hubris here, among White people of good will, who would never consciously engage in bigotry or discrimination. Your naively erroneous assumption of how I think, and why, is a perfect example of that, and it’s laughable. You’ve been watching far too much television and/or reading too much pop psychology, my man.
There’s only one Wattree family in America. EVERYBODY with the last name Wattree is related to me. We immigrated to the United States from France, as an intact Black Family, during the time that the French abolitionists, Edouard Laboulaye, and sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, conceived and sculpted the Statue of Liberty (Did you know that Lady Liberty was a freed slave, and has broken shackles at her feet?).
When my family arrived and settled in Minden, Louisiana (after the civil war), my great, great, uncle, Richard Wattree, established the Wattree School to educate free Black people, and he was responsible for educating many of the heads of what subsequently became some of the most prominent Black families in the state of Louisiana (and since we are a one-of-a-kind family, that can be easily researched on the net; simply go to Google and enter "Wattree School"), and since that time the professionals in my family have been dedicated to the education of Black people in one way or another. My daughter, Kaiumeka Wattree-Jackson, is currently a human relations specialist for her alma mater and the regional vice president of a college and university employees’ union, and many other Wattrees are scattered across this country teaching everything from kindergarten children through high school; others are working in positions of university administration. My son is a senior special agent with the Department of Justice, dedicated to eradicating drugs and street crime in America’s inner cities. So your inane assumption of the way I view the world and reality is just that - inane, presumptuous, and simplistic.
My woman is a public person, so she used to hate it when I referred to myself in my writings as a hood rat. So I wrote her the poem attached to the end of this missive to explain exactly how I feel about my background. It may enlighten you just as it did her. Now, she not only understands, but she approves. You see, Barack Obama is not the aberration that many people think. People like myself, Barack Obama, and many others, are cultural hybrids, and as we continue to grow in numbers, character, and vision, we’re going to become something to be reckoned with in this country.
The Hood Rat
I’m sure you know that I love you;
You’re everything that I need.
You fit the bill of all my desires,
a perfect match for all of my dreams.
You’re everything I’ve always craved,
that luscious vision from across the tracks;
that delicate flower,
just beyond my grasp, and
now here you are at last.
But what you ask is foreign to me;
You need something that I'm not.
You said, if I'd tweak my nature, just a bit,
you’ll give everything you’ve got.
But that "tweak" you need is who I am;
It's my essence, can't you see?
You want to abolish the hood rat from my life,
the very thing that makes me, me.
While a hood rat may seem trite to you,
a hood rat’s what you see;
So forget about what the other’s say -
here’s what it means to me:
I’ve been brutally dragged through the pits of Hell,
yet, managed to survive,
well educated and fully functional,
when I came out the other side.
I scrounged the lessons taught at Harvard,
because knowledge, I found, was free;
But Harvard can't teach the lessons I've learn -
that knowledge is unique to me.
While they've heard the sounds of a mournful Trane,
and Miles moaning in the night,
not against the backdrop of hunger and pain,
or injustice, hatred, and blight.
Yet, these are the things you want me to purge,
and spurn the life I’ve led.
Well, I’m sorry sweet thing, as much as I love you,
the soul of a hood rat is my edge.
Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)