We’re Not Going To Have Another Black American President For 20 Years
White Middle-Class Success Is More Toxic Than Masculinity
The reason why we’re not going to have a black president for at least another two decades has nothing to do with the fact that neither Kamala Harris nor Cory Booker are electable candidates. Rather, it’s wise to understand that the average American black person’s desire to approach and achieve a very traditionally middle class and white aesthetic by which to define social success is actually toxic to African-American sociopolitical growth. If we’re going to elect a black person, it’s a black person who maintains a foot in the struggle, a foot in an evolved standard of black excellence, an arm in wealth, a hand in diversity, and a constant eye in the back of his head staring down conservative and mainstream whites. It’s these folks who are probably most troubling. They’re likely staring at a status quo shifting ever more left and getting more frightened and prone to incendiary revolutionary action by the second.
The best way to frame this discussion hearkens back to 1974, and the time that the co-founders of the Black Panther Party split along lines of white middle-class appeal, and nothing for black folks trying to advance in an America defined largely by white middle-class traditions was the same ever again.
Three years after stating, while imprisoned for allegedly inciting a riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, that “To be a Revolutionary is to be an Enemy of the state. To be arrested for this struggle is to be a Political Prisoner,” Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale had traded in his blue-collar leather jacket and prison blues for a more white collar and clearly white person-appealing appearance consisting of stylish wide silk ties and polyester suits while campaigning for the office of Mayor of Oakland, California. One year later, Seale and fellow Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton were offered a script about the Black Panthers to be potentially turned into a Blaxploitation film produced by Bert Schneider, the producer of hippie-exploitation road masterpiece Easy Rider. It’s rumored that because Seale wanted nothing to do with, though lucrative, a film likely rooted in an exploitative vibe, he turned down the opportunity.
Newton, by 1974, was still very blue collar, street-rooted and African-American appealing in his sensibilities and surroundings. He was still with the now declining in impact Panthers, more radical than ever, surrounded by local Los Angeles gangsters, and rumored to be a “despotic and paranoid drug addict.” His erratic behavior, caused him to engage in action most drastic. According to Wikipedia, Newton denied an opportunity at a big budget film that likely would have yielded him a significant financial windfall, allegedly beat Seale with a bullwhip so badly that Seale required extensive medical treatment for his injuries.
America is a country governed by a document signed in 1787 by 39 wealthy white men looking to govern a country of hard-working other white men. Moreover, these white men created a society that honors and celebrates their religious rituals, social mores, and cultural phenomenons. Given those non-whites who occupy American soil all share a history of surviving violent assaults against their race, gender, heritage, and or character, there’s obviously something afoot regarding how quite frankly, evil, it can be to want to be — if you’re not already identified as such — defined by any measure of success similar to that of one’s oppressor.
If a black person in America, it’s impossible to, at this point, imagine how to be successful within, but without, white America. Five decades have elapsed since Gil Scott-Heron alluded to the guiding ubiquity of “a white tornado, white lightning, or white people” in America’s socioeconomic portrait of itself in “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” And, if we stare long enough into the jowly, bloviating visage of the current American President, It’s as if Richard Nixon’s body has reanimated itself as a revolting, undead blob. Beyond saddeningly enough, after fifty years, America finds itself right back where it started. There are influential black people preparing to engage in ideological combat for our hearts, souls, and futures. And, just like in the case of Bobby Seale going into hiding for the entire year of 1975, and the slow decline of Huey Newton into a drug addict murdered in a crack cocaine deal gone wrong in 1989, the battle ends with nobody ultimately winning in the end.
I’m not saying that someone should assault Kamala Harris for being a person of color who possibly prosecuted other, wrongly accused, people of color. Nor am I asking for someone to slapjack Cory Booker for the condition of inner-city Newark, where he was the black mayor linked to a surge in white gentrification. But, I will say that there’s something similar to the Seale/Newton Black Panther Party split in both of these confirmed candidates having a greater swell of support in white-collar black circles over blue-collar black circles that is important to note.
Instead of being great unifiers like Barack Obama, Booker and Harris are black folks whose social presentation could be taken as being “Bad and Boujee.” Approaching a certain level of bourgeois, milquetoast, and potentially white-appealing esoterica in your presentation instead of “keeping it real” isn’t wrong. But, in doing so in the face of black people who need jobs and money, plus are still demanding the self-respect to define themselves and their own success by both black and American standards that feel more alien to black people and culture in America is wrong. It’s the kind of thing that, if accepted, via election, could potentially lead to black folks joining the ranks of folks mad as hell at the government and not ready to take it anymore.
Recently, Kamala Harris appeared on hip-hop and black cultural touchstone program The Breakfast Club. Once completed with the interview, the most significant topics discussed via social media users — especially those on “Black Twitter” — surrounded her noting that she did smoke marijuana, plus, as well, that she defended her marriage to a white man. But, maybe more damning than anything else, she claimed to have listened to Snoop Dogg and Tupac in college. Given that she graduated with her Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, in 1989, and ‘pac and Snoop’s careers do not begin until the 1990s, that’s literally impossible.
Double down on this moment with noted white female conservative political commentator Tomi Lahren tweeting, “Kammy trying to be cool again.. @KamalaHarris says she listened to Snoop Dogg, Tupac while smoking weed in college years before they made music…,” and it stings. The “cool” in this sentence, not a particular “white” cool, but definitely a “black” cool associated with a blue-collar, working-class black American aesthetic to which Harris has now been denied to have any connection.
Regarding Booker, cultural commentator and The FADER senior music editor Lawrence Burney noted in a tweet regarding Cory Booker that, “I ain’t voting for nobody who wear boot cut jeans wit Toms and no socks.” In response, Booker tweeted, “My dad always told me, ‘You got more degrees than the month of July, but you ain’t hot.’ Can’t say he was wrong here.” The idea that a black man running for the office of President of the United States after a black fashion icon was in office is getting trolled on Twitter and has a long tradition of being clowned by his father for his lack of fashion sense is damning. There’s something in the idea that Booker’s aspiration for white middle-class respectability via education superseded his desire to stay fashion forward in a way that denies Booker’s access to a level of uniquely African-American defined American cultural excellence.
This is much deeper than not being a rap fan or wearing dad jeans, though. There’s something in African-American excellence in the country coming from a place of need as opposed to white excellence in the United States being derived from a place of want, that limits the ability of black people to ever truly achieve a comparable social or economic standing related to white people in the country. Achieving traditional white middle-class success in America? It could be considered akin to being person number 11 at a table for ten. You need a seat, but there’s absolutely nobody who wants to give you one. On one level it’s because they’re hungry and though it appears to be the case, after they get seconds, there’s just not enough food to go around. On yet another, based on two centuries of perceived evidence, you’re just not a sociocultural fit for the group.
Because black people need to discover the true meaning of what sustainable black excellence can look like for someone not with the last name of Obama, we’re probably a solid 20 years without another black American President. In that time, it’s entirely possible that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will conquer having a president that’s both Latinx and a woman, while Pete Buttigeig will handle being America’s first gay Chief Executive. While all of this is occurring, and black folk are out of the “most interesting person in the room” social, political, and cultural conversation in America, something dramatic needs to occur.
By 2040, the notion of an all-encompassing black tradition of middle-class excellence needs to be a pervasive part of American life. There needs to be a sense of what it means to be black and successful in the United States that feels entirely alien to anything that approaches traditional white values ascribed to success. If this does not occur, and there’s a black person running for President in a wide silk tie and polyester suit who’s perceived as not respecting all economic tiers of black people, plus is wholly unaware of cultural touchstones, and generally looks like someone who opted to sell the soul of his community for an opportunity at a piece of paper that offers the appearance of equal, not different, footing with white people, be worried. If conditions as they are get worse, there’s a manic depressive black person who, after nearly 75 years of seeing black people supersede needing everything for a narrow shot at attempting to want more, may, as aforementioned — like Huey Newton is rumored to have done to Bobby Seale — assault that person, with a bullwhip, causing extensive injuries.
Attempting, as a black person, to achieve America’s traditional white middle-class excellence, is more toxic than masculinity. It’s also why we will not have a black President for at least another 20 years.