People of Color are not Grammatical Modifiers.

Trump-code-talkers.jpgIt is your honor, Mr. President

I have a short story. In my late twenties, I worked a few summers at a now-defunct hardware chain on the east coast. I was married with two children wanting to finish an advanced degree and stuck in a dead-end job. The son of one of the company executives was hired as my boss although he was nearly ten years my junior. My first name is William, but he insisted on calling me, Willie. No matter how many times I would correct him he would toss back his auburn hair, puff his rosy cheeks and call me Willie. Finally, I’d had enough and complained to the store manager, I needed the job and short of punching him in the face that was my solution. Thinking the problem was solved I greeted him the next morning with a smile and a “good morning Tim.” He whirled on his heels stared me in the eye and said, “good morning Little Willie.”

I am now beyond my sixtieth year of life and relatively intelligent, or at least I like to think I am, but something has baffled me for years. I grew up in Washington, DC, hardly the bedrock of the south, but when white people would identify me, or people like me in a crowd they would partially cover their mouths and instinctively lower their tone. I never understood what that was about. Why did my skin color make it uncomfortable to say out loud, “THE BLACK GUY, over there?” Hispanics, Asians or other people of color did not hesitate; I am sincerely looking for an explanation. It was not insulting, and in many cases, I was “the only” Black guy over there. Dealing in corporate America I was proud to be the Black Guy, I felt I was opening a door.

Something occurred to me during the President’s address to the Native American Code Talkers in the White House ceremony two days ago. Donald Trump and many like him want to use people of color like grammatical modifiers. “Look at my African American over there” those, the and they are all familiar pronouns and articles to people of color, but they get advanced up the grammatical food change to modifiers for people of color. Those Mexicans, the Blacks or, they are all alike…

I guess this was sort of a long-winded and personalized critique to talk about my continued disappointment in the Commander in Chief. A group of brave Native American World War II veterans stood proudly and as steadily as possible, at their advanced ages, under the embodiment of the Trails of Tears, a portrait of Andrew Jackson. To add insult to injury the, those, they were unwittingly forced to endure a thoughtless attempt at humor by the President of the United States. While honoring the Code Talkers, men who devised a clever unbreakable code invaluable in the war effort, fashioned from their native tongue, the President chose to invoke the modifier Pocahontas, like it was some, one size fits all moniker. The word microaggression is tossed around in contemporary discussions about race but is generally shrugged off by conservatives as politically correct psychobabble. Unfortunately, they purposely denigrate the implication because it does not fit the narrative. The narrative of you should be thankful to be in “my” America is not only filled with historical mistruths but blatantly hostile to men and women of color. I literally remember my blood boiling while reading an article penned by Patrick J. Buchanan posturing the notion that Africans, forced into slavery, should be grateful that Americans gave them an opportunity they would have missed had it not been for bondage.

My ancestors did not come over on the deck of a great sailing ship, sipping lagers of ale, my people were in the bowels of those vessels hoping a drop of their own sweat would wet their lips and they died by the thousands. So, when those people say to you. “I am offended, listen first before you shake your head and say to yourself not “those people again.”

Alabama Vote for Decency

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