Of Race and Country

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Gucci: "Maybe they didn’t think it was off ensive. Maybe they did and didn’t care."

As far as Black History Months go, this Black History Month has got to be one of the most chaotic and disjointed months on record. Instead of using this month to celebrate the achievements and contributions made to this society by Blacks, we find ourselves calling for resignations, demanding apologies and threatening boycotts as once again the boundaries of acceptable racial behavior are being tested for public consumption. And if that isn’t enough, we have two Black politicians who announced they were running for President in 2020, and almost immediately they’ve both committed pandering faux pas that brings into question exactly why any of us should support either of them. Put it all together and you have one Black History Month for the books, a season of insensitivity and self-correction, a confederacy of idiocy and bigotry that would be funny to watch if it weren’t happening in real time.

Ok. Where do I start? Kamala Harris recently went on the “Breakfast Club” to promote her candidacy into the Presidential Race of 2020. Even though when she was the Attorney General of California she opposed the legalization of pot, in her interview with the “Breakfast Club” she admitted to smoking weed during her college days at Howard University. She even mentioned that she would listen to Snoop Dogg and Tupac while getting high. Sounds about right. Thousands of folks, present company included, used to get high on pot while listening to Snoop and Pac. What made her claim worthy of parsing is that Kamala Harris graduated as an undergrad in 1986 and from law school in 1989. Snoop’s first song that came out was “Deep Cover,” and that dropped in 1992. Tupac’s first song that came out was “Same Song,” and that dropped in 1991.

Why would Mrs. Harris lie about toking and vibing to Snoop and Tupac? For the same reason why Hillary Clinton appeared on the same radio show three years ago and said that she keeps hot sauce in her bag. “The Breakfast Club” is the biggest urban morning show on radio. Some politicians feel that they need to pander for votes. Kamala put two and two together and thought that saying she smoked and listened to gangsta rap would endear her to the listening audience. But it didn’t. It only made her look inauthentic and out of touch with a Black community that is more well-versed in the political landscape than Mrs. Harris seems to give us credit for. Shame on her for selling us short.

In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam’s contribution to Black History Month came in the form of an old photo in his Medical School yearbook. The photo shows two guys, one in Blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. The guy in the Blackface is Northam. He says it isn’t him. Then he said it might be him. Then he said that there was this one time that he went in Blackface because he was dressing like Michael Jackson. Then, in an interview with Gayle King, he referred to the first slaves that arrived in Jamestown in 1619 as indentured servants. Through it all, he and everyone who is using this scandal for political gain are missing one point. Black folks aren’t surprised that an old white guy from the south once donned Blackface. I mean, they put it in a yearbook. How much more public does one have to express their feelings than in the pages of their yearbook? What is concerning is this regression that we are witnessing, where racism is beginning to demand acceptance.

When a fashion house like Gucci offers a product for sale, that product has gone through an extensive vetting process, a full evaluation of the product and its quality and ability to sell in the marketplace. For this reason alone, one must question who Gucci thought the market was for their balaclava knit top, a top that happens to have a red mouth attached to the fabric, an addition that made the top resemble Blackface when that piece of fabric is pulled over the face. It is difficult to believe that out of all of the inspectors and execs that have to sign off on designs, no one caught that the face part might be offensive. Maybe they didn’t think it was offensive. Maybe they did and didn’t care.

If this month has taught us anything at all about Black history, it has taught us that there is still an amazing divide in this nation that is fractured across the lines of race.