#HometownChat – “Smart Community, Special Service, Civic Dreams”
Every week there’s a pop culture story that rises above all the news chatter. Recently it was Twitter comments by ESPNs Jemele Hill that sent shock waves. Her online post regarding how things played out in the Presidential elections might help us learn, unlearn and relearn things about living in America.
Then there was Sean Spicer’s cameo at the Emmy Awards. He was given a warm reception considering that he undermined reality (lied) when he served as Press Secretary. Hill’s take on white supremacy was met with threats of being fired. But Spicer’s take on inauguration crowd size might have been worse.
How do we explain Hill getting thrown to the wolves while Spicer gets to reinvent himself as a paid speaker? Some point to a double standard or bias. Others think Spicer has more people defending him while Hill’s squad gotta lay low. At a minimum we see the inter-play of facts, opinions and analysis.
We sift through opinions and analysis in order to resolve the facts. It’s like when I first migrated to America over 35 years ago, I had in my mind smooth sailing. But over time I’ve had to do a second and sometimes third take in order to breathe new life and add more woke to my dreams. I now realize that:
- American history tells the events while social activism tells the story.
- There’s usually an undercurrent of race and an undergarment of hope below the surface.
- It’s not everybody who represents the people that really speaks for the people (and vice versa).
We might come to understand American history by certain key dates. There’s Independence, Emancipation, and Obama’s elevation as the first African American U.S. President. But these dates also line-up with key periods which might be seen as Community 1.0, Community 2.0 and Community 3.0.
But it’s the kind of social activism in these periods that help us understand the events of history and the essence of the American story. What we find today is the idea that what went around before has returned to center stage. The events in Charlottesville Virginia are a good example of that reality.
When you look at historic events more up close and personal there’s usually a running thread that gives life to the story. Even from the beginning, the American story has had an undercurrent of race. The founding documents had Blacks represented as not fully human. That’s still taking time to unwind.
The killing of unarmed black men that keeps ending with ‘not guilty’ verdicts spawned a Black Lives Matter movement. This has even spilled over into the NFL. But through it all there’s the undergarment of hope that’s led to progress made. Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ was one example of hope over skepticism.
Every so often there’s an unforgettable moment that makes us say ‘hold up, wait a minute.’ For some it was Michael Brown. For others it was Trayvon Martin. When certain officials speak out on these cases you get the feeling that not everybody who represents the people really speaks for the people (and vice versa).
Here we are in 2017 seeing things play-out that seemingly takes us back 100 years. It feels like the inciting of a more pissed-off union than us pursuing a more perfect union. We can’t always rely on what various officials say. So I’ve had to learn, unlearn and relearn some things in order to know the real story.
Tip: Sometimes life is about turning lemons into lemonade and other times about seeing history through the social activism grade.
Talkback: How does the undercurrent of race or the undergarment of hope affect the way we see American history?
Tracks: James Brown – Living in America – https://youtu.be/c5BL4RNFr58
French Montana – Unforgettable – https://youtu.be/B54PgHTa08M