Monday, April 9, 2012

Ward 8, Get Your Granddaddy

Photo by dbking, Wikimedia Commons
Take his hand and lead him inside the house.  Gently sit him down in his beat-up La-Z-Boy.  Grab him a Michelob from the fridge, but keep the remote out of his reach.  This will require his full attention.

Slowly proceed to explain to him that although he is well past the age where some older black folks stop being polite and start getting a little too real (based on my relatives and the elderly pianist at my home church, I think it's around 64), sharing their unedited thoughts on subjects like your weight, spouse or lack thereof, their friends' wayward grandchildren, what's going on at "that church over there," and crooked doctors, racism is NEVER acceptable.

He'll think that since he is a black man who survived Jim Crow, riots, attempted murder, addiction, prison, multiple scandals and made it beyond Social Security benefit collection age, he should be able to say whatever runs across his mind, whether the mic is on or not

Look him in the eye and tell him that he's dead wrong.  Being a former civil rights activist, he should know that racial scapegoating--this time, in regard to Asian business owners--is reprehensible and vile.  Let him know that saying that "dirty" Asian-owned businesses should all leave Ward 8 so that African-American businessmen can take their place sounds like he remixed hateful rhetoric from a white supremacist group.  As he knows, there are likely good and bad business owners of every hue east of the Anacostia.  A person of his stature should approach neighborhood beautification, business development and resident concerns in a strategic and holistic manner, coordinating meetings and talking to groups of business owners and emerging entrepreneurs, rather than singling out an entire race.

Remind him that if these words were uttered about black businesses by a white politician in a gentrified area of the city, he knows that he would be the first one to organize a march and demand that councilman's resignation.  Defensive justifications and a quick visit to a "good Asian" (!) are not enough.  Making real amends requires constructive, meaningful dialogue and true leadership.

If he still doesn't get it, try showing him some graphics to drive the point home--his antics just made the "Highbrow-Despicable" quadrant of New York Magazine's Approval Matrix.

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