Day is More Than A Dream
By Tommy Ates
have a dream."
The words were not just a vision, but an attitude of "life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for all Americans.
But, we had to get there first.
41 years later, where are we?
Looking at the current state of race in America, people must
remember that examining racial attitudes are always more dangerous
- and sobering - than examining race relations at face value.
Racial attitudes are often related in the mass media. African-Americans
still have the 'cool' factor for their music and fashion sense;
but what value do non-blacks place on these 'African' signifiers?
Instead of wondering where Africans-Americans are today in
the career rat-race, perhaps we should delve into interpersonal
relationships - how minorities and whites interact on a day-to-day
basis. Does the love-hate complex of black vs. white still
exist and if so, how does it manifest itself? Will whites
ever not think of blacks as suspicious, temperamental, or
stupid? Will blacks ever not wonder whether whites can be
really "down," not snotty or racist?
To be truthful, in writing this column, I feel as though
I am posing questions and answers to attitudes which I don't
have. As a young man, I wasn’t alive when Dr. King was living.
I have grown up during the journey, not the beginning (of
the Civil Rights era), so I don't have a clear sense of how
other ethnicities felt or feel; but I can note the inconsistencies.
Increasingly I feel that my race is being used - my outside
likeness - as a corporate knockoff of how a man should be,
not malignant discrimination, but I am nothing like these
sellable youth images or “brands.” I am not the pimp. I am
not the sports player and I don't have the "bling, bling."
The vision of black men that corporate America has for the
teenage and young adults may be good for business, but bad
for self-worth. Since the civil rights movement, the super-masculine
black male has been a perennial image of sexual magic and
The black female has turned from "Mamie" to the affronting
"black bitch" that white men can't handle. Both of these stereotypes
lead me to believe that being strong and black in the eyes
of whites continues to be a problem.
In the '90s, those blacks able to get media attention often
were not the progressive activists, but conservative pundits,
seen as the bellwether of how blacks could be if they only
'assimilated.' But how can one assimilate when inequalities
of poverty and economic opportunities are so stark? I can
only imagine the decisions some blacks in power must make
in situations where raising a concern about the fate of the
worker masses (many of whom are your own) which may jeopardize
your own position as a good executive "sticking to the bottom
line." No, we cannot look at corporate America to be our savior
or measuring stick upon which to grade how far we've come.
When it comes to the mass media, where is there room to argue?
No one can deny that blacks and minorities sing a bad (if
not distorted) rap. Even with crime statistics showing that
drug usage is a suburban phenomenon, the local news continues
to load its newscasts with gritty portraits of urban blight
as if poor, black ghetto were the source of urban decay rather
than the "white flight" processes that created the situation
to begin with.
January 19th should be the celebration of Martin Luther King
Jr.'s birthday, instead for many Americans, it's still a workday.
How are we to celebrate and contemplate King's memory when
people still have to go about their daily routine? The media
covering the President and First Lady's visit with the King
family has become a ritual in which many people don't pay
attention. To end the boredom, why don't they ever let regular
white people tell what they think MLK day is?
Is King’s dream more than just a ‘minority mouth-off day’?
(Would it really matter if it was?)
We need more leaders like Martin Luther King, resistant to
the current socioeconomic system; but unfortunately, even
he has been working (posthumously) for Alcatel.