Sunday, February 1, 2009

What Taco Bell and Black America Have In Common

As I was wrestling with my children and my piling mountain of writing work yesterday, I caught a glimpse of a new Taco Bell commercial that resonated with me. The theme of this advertisement was actually a play on words, where viewers were encouraged to 'change their view of change'. Taco Bell is simply communicating that you should gather your spare change to buy their inexpensive tacos, but it meant something different to me. It was the first day of Black History Month, and some stranger on the television told me to change my view of change.

And THAT made me think of you.

There are lots of Americans who are voting and taking political action all on the premise of "change". People are talking about how ready they are for a "change" in government. Obama got elected on this principle. Black America in particular wants to see "change" in this country.

But what the heck does THAT mean?

Has anyone ever stopped to consider that change is not automatically positive? Is it possible that changes, even when well intended, can cause unexpected problems? Then there are issues concerning the agents of change; who can realistically change what? Whose responsibility is it, really, to change what I want changed in my life and my community? Just because a pied piper comes to town talking about change, does it mean that they will or even can make the changes that they cause me to dream about?

Is it possible that the idea of "change" is a manipulation?

Understand that I am overgeneralizing to make a particular point. We are now experiencing Black History Month 2009, which will prove to be one of the most dynamic celebrations of Black American history ever in this country. People have been comparing Obama to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (ugh), and Black Americans really do have a reason to celebrate. However, when does "change" cease to be the buzz word for Black Americans looking to be satisfied and become the charge for Black Americans/ looking to actually progress themselves and not just celebrate the success of others? What sense does it make to spend an entire month celebrating a President who has not yet served any particular Black interests, and in fact is NOT a Black American (he is African-American at best) and the success of other high achievers.

What about YOUR Black history? Are you making any? Are YOU personally changing anything? Do you even have a balanced view of change in the Black community?

I submit to you that the answer is probably "no".

Case in point, Michael Steele was elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee in the same month that Obama was inaugurated. Not a peep out of Black America. No "Atta boy" for Michael Steele, although he is the first Black man to be elected to that office. Being the first Black chairman of the RNC is a HUGE deal! It's actually, according to the logic retained by most Black Americans, a harder feat to accomplish than even what Obama did! Think about it: the most liberal U.S. senator in history gets elected by a bunch of liberals, including Black Americans who unilaterally vote Democrat anyway. Okay. However, Michael Steele was elected chairman of a national political organization representing a party that YOU would probably consider to be racist! There are very few Black Republicans in this country, and yet a Black man was elected to be chairman over the entire RNC.

That's tough!

But there was no parade, Jessee Jackson didn't come and cry, nothing. Since Michael Steele isn't promising you free health care and a check, his achievements toward "change" don't matter to you. Many of you reading this don't even know who Michael Steele is. Yet, if given the opportunity, I'm sure you would take the opportunity to talk about how the Republican Party doesn't appeal to, accommodate, or serve Black Americans.

You can see that's a lie. The change has come; where are you? Where was your Black pride concerning THAT change?

As I digress, I submit to you that Black Americans have a very self-serving and warped idea of change, and it is based in victimhood. If change doesn't involve us getting served, we don't want it. Instead of cleaning up our own communities, we vote for crooked politicians who promise to do it for us. Instead of teaching our own children, we burden an already broken and insufficient school system with the entire responsibility of educating our children, and then get mad when they can't read dot on a spot. We point the finger at groups who don't kiss our collective Black behind, but when they do make progress and move toward the 'colorblindness' that we pretend to want, we are the ones who are actually blind to it. We think that everyone else is supposed to change. We want everyone else to be agents of change. We let snake oil salesmen and pied pipers get us upset about the establishment when they are just establishment-wannabes themselves. It's everyone else's responsibility to change.

When are WE going to change?

When are we going to get a 21st Century perspective on our own history? When are we going to go beyond just celebrating the successes and admit the failures? When do we critically analyze our history so that we can see what isn't working and form new social theories and action plans based in fact and not emotion?

When will we truly be the ones that we have been waiting for?

When are we going to change OUR view of change?


  1. Amen ... and by the way, I did offer Michael Steele congratulatory remarks as soon as he won, as I was tracking the vote via Twitter.

  2. First off who in there right mind has compared Obama to Dr. King?

    Michael Steel has been on the front of every black publication I read. He's received quite a few "atta boys". The majority of the negativity towards his selection comes from within his own party (not a surprise).

    I am not a register republican, but I have followed Michael Steele's career very closely. I am very proud of the step the RNC's with Mr Steele's appointment, that my since of pride goes beyond his skin color. What I expect Steele to bring to the RNC is a perspective that has been lost from the GOP for the last 15 years.

    I also believe that Barack Obama paved the way for Michel Steele's RNC selection. Let's be honest Obama, made Michael Steele a little easier for the GOP to swallow.

    I also think your broad sweeping assumptions about Black American's idea of change is completely distorted. The black people I know don't want a hand out, and we defiantly don't need anyone to "kiss our collective black behinds". What we do expect is a rock solid economy, a stronger infrastructure, and access to a strong education system. I hope Steele can help Barack stay on task.

  3. Thanks for the comments :-)

    Anon, you expect a rock solid economy and access to a strong education system? Neither of those things exist. Every economy has weak spots just as every economy has booms and busts. That's life.

    And in case you hadn't noticed, the American public school model CANNOT succeed in the 21st Century - it's not designed to. That's why Black Republicans (ie. Akindele Akinyemi in Michigan) fight for school choice in public school districts. That's the best chance that children attending public, charter, and private schools have with respect to creating a "strong" educational system.

    Obama did indeed pave the way for Steele to be elected; no one is blind here. However, I am simply calling out the hypocrisy in getting excited about Obama's achievements and not getting excited about Michael Steele's achievement. While this shoe doesn't fit all Black Americans, it fits a WHOOOOOOOOLE lot of my brothers' and sisters' feet.

    I know that you know that :-)

  4. Ok let me list them:
    AOL Black Voices lead story today..Micheal Steele.
    NPR Tell Me More (Michelle Martin) Featured Story...Michael Steele. Lead Opinion piece.... Michael Steele. Guess who....Michael Steele.

    I can go on!! Black Media is covering Steele too. We're not all Republican, but that doesn't stop us from being happy for him!!!

    Like i said before, it's the republican party that's "hating"

  5. I disagree... Michael paved his own way, by working hard, progressively taking/earning/getting elected in positions with increasing responsibility... I mean if Maryland was more of a red state, then I would say, that was an easy task... but it was not, and to be elected as LT Gov, against a KENNEDY, no less, well... Obama's battle wasn't so hard...

  6. Are you kidding me Concerned??? The first black President of the USA not so hard? If it's that easy, then why don't you do it!

    I don't want to discount Mr. Steele's efforts. He busted his behind to get to this position. And nobody here (hopefully) is ignorant enough to say that he didn't deserve it. Michael Steele said that he was chosen to bring fresh air to the Grand Old Party, and you would be blind not to see that Obama's presidency had a something to do with it.

  7. WOW...

    It's amazing how the context gets lost when you have topics like this...

    Of course a few websites posted the story - they are news outlets and Michael Steele is Black. That makes it news. Are even one of those outlets you mentioned Black-owned. MAYBE the Root...maybe.

    The other ones are poor examples. AOL owns BlackVoices. My post was about ACTUAL Black voices; the voices of those who made such a huge deal out of one man's achievement while the other goes generally unnoticed by the people who say they are looking for change. When change comes that doesn't involve anyone conceding that the world owes them something, you don't hear too many Black people talking about it.

    That was the real point, folks.

  8. The root is owned by the Washington Post, but the news is still relevant to black people. 90% of the black people I've spoken with love the RNC's choice to have Steele head the party. My point is that you need to check those "black voices" you're making these broad sweeping assumptions about.

    If your assumptions of black sediment is made solely off the reactions of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, then you're out of touch. Jackson and Sharpton, don't speak for the majority of Black America.

  9. Neither party speaks for the majority of Black America.

  10. With all due respect, your generalizations are egregiously erroneous. The African American population makes up 13% of the American population of 313,000,000. In other words there are 40,000,000 of us.

    It seems that you assume that we are all the same (just as every white American is apparently as ignorant as you appear to be). For the record, there is as much diversity in the "African American" sub-culture as there is in any other. Yes. There are "thugs" (despised even by productive, functional African Americans) just as there are white operators of meth amphetamine labs in rural Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri. Note to the curious: not all criminals are African American!

    Is it a stroke of enlightenment to ignore the individual variance that must exist within any group? Don't worry about responding. That was a rhetorical question. I'll answer that one should learn to look at the individual.

    If you could do such a thing you might come to realize that some of us have 3 degrees (including an MBA and a Ph.D.), speak multiple foreign languages (including Italian, Spanish, and Arabic), have lived and worked in multiple countries in a way that portrays Americans as generous, intellectually curious, and compassionate, have respectable positions such as Associate Professor of Managent at large state research institutions (as I do), have published scientific research in prestigious journals on multiple occasions, and transform lives through education while becoming wealthy while doing it all (I'll assume that I contribute more to general economy than you do)!

    That is MY black history! What is your contribution to the fabric of American society? Is it your offering of a pseudo intellectual editorial that lacks scientific validity? Save it! Do your research! Better still. Go out and talk to people of all walks of life. Perhaps, your views would be better informed if you would do such a thing.

    What you have offered here is both born of ignorance and propagates it further! Thank you for that!

  11. Hey,

    This is Kim if you still have a Blog and a voice for 'change' contact me

    I look forwards to hearing from you

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