Black Like Me

I wrote this post, titled ‘India, You Disgust Me,’ in response to the world-wide outrage surrounding the crime against the woman who was gang-raped, left for dead, and ignored by passers-by in New Delhi.

My friend posted this response on my Facebook page.

Jim wrote: “The 100s of thousands dead in Iraq because of our occupation would disagree with you that our failings are negligible. Also, you might want to chat with someone black who grew up in the inner city before lauding America’s meritocracy and lack of class structure. Your point on India is well taken but the post has a very privileged voice. You were born in the land of plenty… which includes rule of law and many other things that are not a given in third world countries. You need not go back more than a 100 years (or maybe even 50 years) in our history to find a much less enlightened, compassionate society. I’m not defending India as much as pointing out it’s a third world country that is far behind us developmentally and economically.”

I appreciate Jim’s point of view, particularly given our involvement in these stupid wars. Not sure why we have to get involved when we have our own problems to solve. However, I never said America’s failings are negligible. That would mean I think we live in utopia which is far from what I believe. What I meant to point out was that, given all the American backlash, this actually isn’t a bad place to live. For my parents who immigrated here, this place is friggin Disneyland.

In England, there were signs that said, “We are against racism.” Seriously? For a first world, apparently civilized country, I found that a bit shocking and telling.

I didn’t have to go far to find a Black, inner-city perspective. My good friend Daniel (20+ years of friendship) shares his thoughts here.

America is not a true and fair meritocracy and to a substantial except class structure remains an ongoing issue.  Sure, everyone likes to point out “exceptions” (e.g., Obama or even me) and pat the country on the back for its social progress.  But the fact of the matter is that substantial work still needs to be done in these areas.

Due to the short amount of time I have an anecdote should give me the most bang for the buck.  All too often, I have and continue to be initially judged on the color of my skin. For example, a new employee in the SF office assumes I work in the mail room even though when I encounter him/her we are no where near the mail room and I am not holding any mail in my hands…..  A former acquaintance of yours crosses the street when she sees me walking toward b/c she fears the Black man… and then awkwardly apologizes when she later realizes its me.   I prepare an analysis for a superior and the superior says the analysis is poor.  Subsequently, a white woman tells me that she took my memo replace my name with hers and the superior praises the very same analysis in the memo.  None of these incidents necessarily prohibited me from acquiring knowledge, etc. But others’ perception of you affects their interactions with you and it is through the process of these interactions that the majority of people “succeed,” gain recognition and accumulate wealth and power.

Who you know (rather who likes you) remains a strong factor in “success.”  Stronger than what you know.  Race and class remains a strong factor in determining who you get to know.  Sure, technological and social advances make it relatively easier for even a leper to become the next Bill Gates.  But Jim is right to the extent that institutional AND government endorsed racism is only about 60 years in our past, at the most.  From a socio-economic standpoint (and beyond just racism) that is not enough time to make the effects of inter-generational wealth transfers an inconsequential factor.  Hence, class-based discrimination, all on its own remains, a hurdle.

I gotta go, but my parting rhetorical question is this: how often do you hear someone who has actually been at the bottom of American society comment about how much “better” society has become?  “I used to be kicked and spit on, but now I’m just kicked.”  Is not what I call an endorsement for progress.

So as to not have this email comeback to haunt me during my subsequent political career, it is important to note that the U.S. remains the best nation in the world…. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  God bless America!  Thank you and good night.

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