As the Decade Turns

It’s holiday party time. Black cocktail dress? Check. Strappy heels? Got ’em. Stylishly warm coat? You bet!  Engaging conversation topics?  Well …

That’s not always so easy. I think these festivities can get trite and tiresome pretty quickly, unless you think on your feet, or you are a very quirky person and are prone to say things that turn people’s heads. Before you head out for this year’s holiday party circuit, let’s take a look back at some of the major stories that caught my attention while tending the Latte Cafe. Not all of these stories highlight intermarriage and cross-cultural dating involving black women. But they are worth noting, because they touch on race and black culture, and ought to be discussed among black women. While holding an egg nog or a mock-tail, depending on your taste.

1. November 2008—Change Has Come! The election of Illinois Senator Barack Obama, a black (and biracial) man as U.S. president was a moment that an entire generation of black Americans never thought would come. Their viewpoint is legitimate, considering all of the racial prejudice and attendant injustices that their generation had to endure. Jim Crow laws, segregation, cronyism, fraternalism in trade unions and a host of other factors conspired against blacks to render them unable to reach their potential either individually or collectively. Thankfully this man teamed up with his advisors and close friends to be a game changer of political campaigns. He played the rules differently and figured out a way to get around all the wily little tricks that would otherwise have ended his candidacy.

2. October 2009—Keith Bardwell, a former justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, made headlines when he refused to grant an interracial couple a marriage license. The couple was made up of a black man and a white woman, but it could have easily been the other way around. That a siting judge in these modern times was willing to go on the record with his views about why interracial marriages should not happen was incredible enough, but he topped that by saying he opposed those unions for the sake of the offspring. Yep. He eventually resigned from the bench.

3. October 2009 — “Good Hair,” the documentary film by Chris Rock opened in theaters nationwide. Everyone knows what this was about. Just walk into a party attended by sisters from a range of backgrounds, walk up to one of them and say something like: ‘Wow, you have really good hair!’ That should get things going. We discussed the movie briefly in a related post.

4. July 2009 — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested outside his own home in Cambridge, Mass. For all his trouble, he got a beer at the White House with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. If I get pulled over and harassed outside my house, can I go shoe shopping with First Lady Michelle Obama?

5. February 2009 — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. remains a nation of cowards when it comes to openly discussing issues of race. I heartily agree with him on this point. Even within my interracial marriage, Hubby and I rarely delve into the topic of race. There are several reasons for that, not the least of which is that Hubby has often taken political and social discussions way too seriously and has gone off the deep end with the things that have come out of his mouth. (At some point in our courtship, I put an end to political discussions full stop. Now he inflicts his curmudgeonly populist, anti-corporate America rants on his conservative Republican brothers and parents.) And I’ve noticed that even so-called enlightened, progressive left-leaning white Americans will sometimes bury their heads in the sand on this issue.  They’ll shrug and say things like ‘race doesn’t matter any more’, or ‘we’ve come a long way.’ Ha! Not far enough. (And you can ask Mr. Gates about how ‘far’ we’ve come on that issue.) No matter how sophisticated and superficially integrated our society becomes, we cannot outrun our basic human nature, which compels us to group ourselves into tribes and ascribe superiority or inferiority to others, depending on how much like us they are. Holder was right: we need to discuss race in open and healthy ways. If we don’t acknowledge the subject of race head on and maintain well-adjusted attitudes about our differences, then little slights and minor situations will compound and escalate until they explode. We try to man up on the subject of race round here, and I thank Mr. Holder for challenging all other Americans to do the same.

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