Political Correspondent: Maze Jackson
If you’re not at least 35 years old you may not be able to relate to this illustration, but here goes: Do you remember the cartoon Tom & Jerry? I used to watch it every day after school, and my favorite episodes were the older ones where Tom was the house cat that not only had to contend with Jerry the Mouse, but the patched sock and slipper wearing house keeper, who we never saw, but assumed was Black. I distinctly remember her shrieking, “Thomas!” any time she saw Jerry. It’s an image that is burned in my head, and even though I NEVER saw anything more than those stockings and slippers, I KNEW she was Black.
When I was a kid, I thought it was funny, but as I got older, and learned what those stockings and slippers connotated in my mind (and WHOEVER else watched it), it wasn’t as funny anymore. Since then they have changed the voiceover to make it more politically correct.
What does this have to do with President Obama’s slippers comment? Call me hypersensitive, but when President Obama delivered the speech at the CBC and he told them (US) to stop complaining and “kick off your slippers,” there it was again: that image of the stocking and slipper-wearing housekeeper from Tom and Jerry. I never saw her, but just like that statement, I knew what it implied. It was a picture that made me cringe, and was an unfair characterization of Blacks in America.
Now before you go theorizing that I’m hating on the POTUS, I’m not, I just think he oversimplified the issue. First, he should acknowledge the fact that WE did what he asked the first time. Along with liberal White America, Black folks turned out for President Obama in record numbers, volunteered like I have never seen before, and generally did everything asked of them when it came to electing him the first time. So to imply that we were just resting on our laurels is not correct, we were a significant part of the reason that he got elected.
Second, he must acknowledge that there is a recession going on that affects Black people disproportionately for a number of reasons, including education, poverty levels, access to information, etc. or the cumulative result of institutionalized racism in America.Money magazine states that Black unemployment rates have surged to their highest rates since 1974, a whopping 16.7% while White unemployment fell to just below 8%. We're not just complaining, it’s real, especially to our people who are out here struggling. I'll say that I'm a pull yourself up by the bootstraps kind of guy and agree that we as Blacks could do a lot more to help ourselves, but as the stats show, a lot of us are struggling to get boots, much less ones with straps.
Finally, President Obama should not use Blacks as the whipping boy for why he has been unsuccessful in winning support for his policies. Mr. President, we did and will continue to do what you ask of us, but don’t act like it’s us that are not supporting you. Ronald Reagan used the image of the welfare queen to rally Reagan Democrats, Bill Clintonworked to prove he wasn’t “that Black” when he became the Comeback Kid, and, now President Obama is telling us to “kick off our slippers” (there she is again) and get to work, as if there are just plenty of jobs to go around. It was almost like we just aren’t looking?
No I don’t buy that, and I think we deserve more for what we’ve already done. Don’t get me wrong, there is more work to do, but fronting us for White America is not the way to go about it, especially when they are the one’s tearing you down. Come correct Mr. President, because when it’s all said and done, Black people are going to have your back regardless.
(Maze, co-founder, Next Generation Leadership Council and President ofCompass Public Affairs, LLC. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/mazjac, Twitter @mazjac. Check out blog The MazJac Chroniclesat mazjac.wordpress.com).