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Kanye West has done it again. Proving that President Obama was right and he indeed is a jackass just weeks after his celebrated break in on Taylor Swift as she was accepting the award for "Best Female Video of The Year" at the MTV Video Music Awards...
Kanye West opened his mouth and told a TMZ.com reporter that he wanted chicken because "I'm black."
You know, there's an old saying that if you forget the past you're doomed to repeat it. In this case, younger African Americans like Kayne obviously weren't instructed that being black does not come with a set of instructions or limitations, as we were told in the past, as much by ourselves as by others.
This - his comment - strikes a heavy nerve with me (and I don't care if he was kidding) because when I was little, specifically between the ages of 4 and 13 while growing up on the mostly black South Side of Chicago, I was told repeatedly by others who were black like me that I wasn't black.
"You talk white", was all I was told again and again. And if it wasn't that, it was this by the African American adults: "Well, you talk 'proper'. (Thank God for my Mom and Dad, who never, ever, pushed that idea in my head.)
The point is I was bombarded with constant signals telling me how I was supposed to act and be as an African American person. And signals telling me that I should not expect to achieve because I'm black.
Those signals that I ignored at and pushed against, at times deliberately, and eventually I created something I called "My Iron Man Suit", in a Chronicle column two years ago. It wasn't until we moved to Oakland in the early 70s that I stopped hearing that because I wasn't in an entirely black environment. Sorry, but was my experience.
Yeah, I'd evolved to the point where most of my friends were not only black but white, Latino, and Asian, and not the kind of people who would tell me that, "Star Trek's for white people", for example.
Are you anti-diversity folks paying attention here?
To me freedom is the ability to be who you are, free from the chains others try to confine you with, and chains crafted from their own insecurities. Heck, I got those messages constantly when I worked at the City of Oakland between 1987 and 1989 and then again from 1995 to 2001.
When I was an intern in 1987, a person, black, who I know to this day and respect told me something that still makes my blood boil, even if I knew what he meant. He said "Man, you've got three problems: you're young, gifted, and black."
In other words, society can't stand an intelligent African American man. That's what he was saying to me.
Someone else said that my problem with trying to bring the Super Bowl to Oakland was that some thought a high-profile white person should do it (and the Oakland Chamber of Commerce certainly sent that message to me at the time).
I'm not kidding.
Another Oakland employee in economic development said "I guess you can tell we don't like smart people around here."
But those were the 80s and now in 2009 I can say the are a lot of blacks like me who've risen to public view, which makes me smile. One of those people is in the White House. I know, without knowing all of them personally, what kind of struggle they endured just to be themselves.
Kanye is channeling those messages all over again here in 2009, and there's a part of me that just wants to grab him by the collar and yell "Knock it off, will ya?!!" Thanks to Kanye West, we can see that regardless of how much one talks about progress, integration, and President Obama as the first black president, we still have people who talk as if being black is a kind of confinement of personality and extinguishing of ambition.
That's why when Barack won the Presidency last year, I cried. I just cried.
Kanye, hear me on this: try sending a signal to your followers that one can be anything they want to regardless of color, but especially young black men. I think a large part of black-on-black crime is self-hatred. We've got to stop that, and you can help, big time. Do that for me. Heck, do it for society because you have a big voice. But lately, your voice been an irresponsible one. Please step up and help advance us, not knock us back. Yes, I like Chicken, but it's not because I'm black.
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