I thank whatever Gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
-Invictus by William Ernest Henley
While growing up in New York City, public transportation provided the synapse of my existence. The buses and trains were an exercise in democracy in which private and public school kids would congeal into a fibrinous clot.
After school let out I would congregate with friends at 179 Street and Hillside Avenue and wait for the Q2 bus to take me home. The rides would range from banal meandering to diffident restraint in the presence of menacing figures to bold proposals for the name and phone number of a fine coed.
Sometimes my stop at Hollis Avenue and 217 Street came too soon. A ranking session would still be going strong or I would be at the crucial point of a story. No matter what, I always had to keep in mind that my destination was not the same as my compatriots.
This weekend's State of the Black Union was a remarkable display of paternalism. The forum's host, Tavis Smiley, repeatedly cautioned the audience to hold the future President accountable and wondered if blacks would be discouraged if Barack Obama lost. Tavis loves Black people to the bone. This cannot be denied. But he infantilizes the electorate.
Even during manumission, blacks were very aware of the vagaries of politics. It was our formidable prowess at utilizing the electoral process that caused whites in power to use terrorism and create laws which constrained black power.
Despite the opinions of liberals and conservatives, black citizens have always been savvy about guarding their interests. The black people who vote for Senator Obama certainly know that there is a chance that he could lose. They know that there lives aren't going to change overnight simply because Barack and Michelle occupy the White House. Mr. Smiley and others should give black people more credit.
In several hours comprised mostly of racially narcissistic projections I did not hear anything about lifestyle changes that we will have to make in order to survive as a country. Other than the usual admonition to register and get out and vote, I heard nothing about how to organize a political action committee or become an electoral delegate or a member of the local school board.
Smiley's audience would have been more enriched had the participants told us these things and the pastor recited Invictus during the closing benediction. Henley's words are more empowering than anything Jesus is reported to have uttered on the Mount of Olives.
How strange it is that Tavis's entreaties for vigilance weren't matched by vigorous examination of his corporate sponsor, ExxonMobil, and its role in geopolitical strife and environmental genocide. It wasn't right to discuss the crises of increasing home foreclosures and rising costs for healthcare without subjecting Wells Fargo and McDonald's to a rigid sigmoidoscopy.
The Obama express continues its relentless push toward the White House and I hope he makes it. But I think this is where I get off.