Friday, September 18, 2009

The Racial Environment In America With A Black President

Sophia Nelson of the Root provides an interesting perspective in her article, "The Uppity Negro Syndrome," where she writes:

The furor over former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s remarks that “an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man" reminds me of a scene from John Singleton’s 1997 film, Rosewood, which dramatized the real-life lynching and burning of a rural, predominantly black Florida town in January 1923.

In the scene, the two men talk about the alleged rape of a white woman and the false rumor that a black man named Jesse Hunter had raped her. (It was alleged that a local Rosewood resident named Sylvester Carrier, a private music instructor who played the piano, was harboring Hunter.) This, of course, was false, but it was used as an excuse to inflame tensions and anger.

Then came the line that’s still etched in my mind: “Oh, that's them uppity folks that own a piano,” one of the white men says. “I don't even own one.”

This bit of dialogue sparks what culminates in a 200-person, white lynch mob that burns Rosewood down, killing dozens of black women, children and men. Black people died because of a classic case of “uppity Negroes” not “knowing” their place.

My point is this: President Carter is speaking a truth that few Americans are willing to hear. He grew up at the height of Jim Crow in the Deep South—the man knows racism when he sees it. Most white Americans simply cannot face the ugly past of “race in America” and how much it is still with us today.

In my opinion, folks, it’s the piano, stupid!

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