Thursday, January 8, 2009


The closer we come to the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, the more I'm hearing from communities both Afrikan descendant (African American) and white the phrase "no more excuses."

As in "Now African Americans have no excuse not to succeed."

As in "Now African Americans will stop being able to play 'the race card'."

Hmmmmm. . .tell me, what is THAT about?

I concede that there is a certain segment of any population that will look for excuses, use "crutches", or otherwise give up and stay down when they fall.

But what bothers me about the increasingly blanket use of this phrase is its implication that the majority of us HAVE been using "excuses"; HAVE been using this country's generational practice of racism-white supremacy as crutches; and HAVE a history of staying down in the face of its manifestations and impact.

But, of course, our history of accomplishment tells us that this is not so.

So what the heck is going on here. . .really?

The use of this phrase by African Americans makes me wonder IF and to what extent we know -– truly know -- our own history, because if we are repeatedly using this phrase, we have clearly not internalized our history of success in the face of generational institutional and systemic oppression.

The use of this phrase by whites evokes the standard dismissals of the generational impact of the system of racism-white supremacy and belittles the damage done by that system. It also reinforces the typical "blame the victim" mentality and finger-pointing that usually accompanies these types of discussions.

Even Dick Cheney, for goodness' sakes, has seemed to grasp the concept of psychological damage that individuals bear when dealing with sustained domestic terrorism. If EVEN HE can acknowledge that psychological damage to Iraqis' as a result of years of institutional and systemic oppression (January 4th Face the Nation interview), why is it so hard for Americans to acknowledge that many issues in the Afrikan descendant community stem not from "excuses" but from the psychological damage of a people generationally abused by the institution of racism-white supremacy?

Or is it that we're once again caught in the historic "double standard" that allows empathy and objective understanding for the impact of terrorism (domestic or international) for every group of people but African descendants?

So, am I suggesting that we condone and reward those who do fall down, lay down, or who were born "down" without the resources or access to get back up?

No. . .

But I am suggesting that we acknowledge that there will be those in any institutionally and generationally oppressed group who have "fallen and cannot get up"; that we do not dismiss or trivialize the very real impact of racism-white supremacy on those who have psychologically given up; and that we not add "insult to injury" by absolving ourselves –- as a country that for 80+% of its history bears responsibility, through its system of LEGAL American Racial Apartheid -- for creating and maintaining the conditions that "seeded" this population.

Not everybody has the psychological fortitude of –- well, forget Barack Obama, let's use as examples those many other Afrikan-descended individuals who live and achieve every day, even as they are stereotyped, demonized, and / or ignored.

Yes, a few will use "excuses." And many more will continue the African American legacy of accomplishment. But, come on, let's openly acknowledge that for a percentage of the population who will not succeed, it is easier for us as a country to berate them for using "excuses" than it is to explore or acknowledge that as one impact of the legacy of racism-white supremacy.

Most of us will do as our Ancestors have done: negotiate through existing racism-white supremacy and accomplish despite it. And some of us –- because of a penchant for making "excuses", because of lack of an emotional and familial structure and roadmap, and/or because of lack of emotional or psychological fortitude -- will not.

Let's acknowledge that reality -- "No more excuses."

Moving Forward!



  1. Although many African-Americans believe that an Obama presidency would mean more opportunity for us; we must remember that Barack is an "Centrist" and will not go to far to the left or right. So he will enact policies that tend to help the vast majority of people. He also believes in personal responsibility. Both of these things are as it should be. But one of the unexpected outcomes of his presidency might be another round of attacks on affirmative action programs and the like because he and Michelle attended ivy league schools and he did ascend to the highest office in the land as a black excuses.

  2. And we see this happening already. . .and unfortunately, we as a country are not mature enough in analysis regarding race to "drill down" on how Barack Obama's racial heritage (white mother and family that was more central to his campaign narrative than his father's; touted by white America as "Bi-racial"); age ("post-Civil Rights"); temperment (not seen as "an angry Black man"); and willingness to be more or less "culturally invisible" (shedding himself of most of the external "tags" that this country uses to judge where Afrikan descendants are on the "assimilation scale", and therefore, their comfort level) factored into his election.

    Would it have been that way for an Afrikan descendant candidate who did not have the benefit of one or more of those factors? Hmmmmmm. . .

    But luckily, the door has been opened and others can walk through -- hopefully! (smile)

    One thing that we do now right now: It is going to be an interesting ride. . .