Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Ellis Cose, a black writer, who writes about "Blacks" and race, titled his recent article for Newsweek, "Meet The New Optimists."

The photo of eight young blacks receiving diplomas, grinning happily, said it all.

Cose has a down-to-earth voice, and proved his point with numbers from polls that show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that blacks -- older guys as well as the younger generation -- feel as if doors are opening for them. They feel there's a better chance, nowadays, for them to get the good jobs, and crack the glass ceiling.

I don't need the numbers or polls. If I were a black, no matter how old, with a black president, and all the other blacks around him in the administration, all the blacks working in high ranking jobs in the business world -- I'd be thinking, hey, it's happened!

It's happening more and more.

We "Whites" sort of expected this to happen. Blacks not only feel good about one of them being the president, they also saw immediately in the attitude of their friends and neighbors, a new something -- respect, and a "yes sir, yes ma'am" expression of admiration for their living through the years of inequality, and surviving, and emerging with "black is beautiful, black is In, black is powerful."

There's a wow feeling in the air. A black can have a dream, an ambition to make it -- "it" being money, fame, and real power -- being a boss, being the top guy, the leader.

Times have changed.

Will things change back? The President had to prove with a birth certificate that he was American born and constitutionally qualified to hold the office of President. And the story of his white mother and black father keeps popping up like a nightmarish black-Jack-in the box.

Has life changed for my black housekeeper who has worked for me for 30 years?


She inherited her parent's attitudes and limitations -- she's been "maiding" all her life -- mopping, dusting, lifting, lugging, bending, washing, scrubbing, and polishing -- tidying things for whites six days a week. Her seven adult kids, working mostly as menials, more than likely won't be more than what they already are. As for their kids, well ...

I wonder if were a black child, or grownup, male or female, would I have hope in my pocket, or on something that I tucked away? I can't imagine being me without hope. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with racial heritage. It seems like a magical ingredient a very young child breathes in, and like a seed, hope takes root in his soul

Gee, maybe IF I were black, maybe as I child, I'd have breathed it in, but learned not to hope, put away hope.

Anyhow, speaking just for me, myself, right now, if I had a chance to be born again and I could choose ...?

Well, black is .. dark. I'd choose white. I don't feel very optimistic about jobs and the glass ceiling. But white is a lot easier to see. No doubt about it -- it's much, much easier to be white.


Samuel_Clemons said...

your honesty is compelling. when frank and honest feelings are expressed, often there is outrage. as if it is wrong to express ourselves and say what everyone else is thinking inside. at least you have the courage to define your experience with your maid and not hide behind political correctness.

working with inner city "urban" kids through various organizations ( i encourage anyone to try it a few times, volunteer ) we faced two very big challenges:

the first was the overwhelming high percentage of black kids born out of wedlock, and being raised by single mothers, and the tendency of the kids we worked with to act out, and have behavioral issues if they didn't have good male role models. coupled with the fact that almost all elementary school kids had female teachers, ( if they were REALLY lucky, they might have a male principle, but often she too was female ) the male influence on them was much appreciated by their counselors, teachers and mothers.

the second, less easy to define factor was generational passing down of barriers by these moms to their kids. the idea that blacks have it harder, won't amount to much, don't have a chance, or will never get ahead was drilled into them over and over, sometimes subtly and subconsciously and sometimes directly.

now this may seem like a clinical, and brief analysis of the cultural divide, but it was my truth, my experience, my research and i stick by it.

we are seeing change. put succinctly, a friend and colleague said to me: "look we blacks have hope. we are no longer the bottom rung of the ladder. we can now point to hispanic americans cleaning houses, as farm laborers, as the low wrung. we've taken a step up."

well, if that is not the bluntest, most down to earth expression of the new reality, then what is?

i tweet at @Samuel_Clemons

Carola said...

I think it will take at least two more generations.

Linda Phillips said...

I loved what you said Em, because it was not make believe and PC. I also loved what Samuel had to say.

I also agree to some extent with Carola.

I think that Blacks have been able to come a very long way in the recent past. Look at how many more CEOs and politicians there are now. Its not an enormous amount, but yes they have opened doors for many others to follow and be accepted as important people!

However, its going to take many more generations for them to be on totally equal footing with "White" people.

That's very sad, but true. The other sad, sad thing is racism. Which is a whole other topic. Look how our first Black President has struggled against it!!!!!!!

Terry said...

I fear that thanks to credentials inflation, these new college graduates may merely be treading water. The college degree is the new high school diploma. And because educational quality continues to plummet, it won't be long before the master's degree will be the new high school diploma.