Keeping it Real: ‘What’s the Matter Boss, We Sick?’

Keeping it Real: ‘What’s the Matter Boss, We Sick?’

“Listen, baby, people do funny things. Specially us. The cards are stacked against us and just trying to stay in the game, stay alive and in the game, makes us do funny things. Things we can’t help. Things that make us hurt one another.”

 —Toni Morrison, “Song of Solomon”

S.E. Williams | VOICE Staff

It is a question that has weighed on my mind in recent years. In all honesty, ever since the current fate of this nation was sealed with the election of one Donald J. Trump in November 2016.

In one way, my ponderings were not so much driven by the hateful antics of the president but more by the complicity of Black people who have remained staunchly entrenched in the Republican Party.

I believe their continued loyalty to the party’s current brand of politics lends an aura of legitimacy to Trump’s racist antics, as evidenced by the marble-mouthed verbal gymnastics they offer in his defense when he frequently goes off the rails. Now, it is very possible they are speaking out against him behind closed doors and, if that is the case, they are nothing less than cowards.  

Who are these Black people who remain loyal to a party that plots day and night to undue the progress it took Black people 401 years to attain and was paid for with the blood and sweat of our ancestors?

By remaining loyal to the Republican Party, they remain loyal to its abhorrent behavior, they give glaring approval to the hatefulness sweeping this nation.

Now, I know many will argue, “What about the history of the Democratic Party?” You will get no argument from me on that point—there is a racial pox on both their houses, and we remember who they are. But today is a different day, these are different times, and it is Trump and the Republican Party who are working overtime to take us back beyond the days of Madmen, to the era of Reconstruction, and I’ll bet even further back in time if they thought it possible.

And yet, Black people of some prominence continue to stand with him, unapologetic in their duplicity. On the one hand standing in their Blackness, and on the other placating to power, as the “Magic Negro.”

The question I continue to ask myself again and again is, “Who are these people?” These Black men and women who stand tall, live out loud as Republicans, yet remain starkly mute, embarrassingly silent as their party and its leaders use every tool, every lever of power to undermine Black progress and denigrate Black lives?

The most recent and glaring example of this is Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a protégé of the U.S. Senate’s Grim Reaper, Mitch McConnell, who on the very day Barack Obama was sworn in as President in January 2009 was already plotting with fellow Republicans to make it almost impossible for Obama to attain success—nation be damned.

I would not be surprised if it was McConnell who advocated for Cameron to stand in the spotlight of the Republican National Convention knowing full well his very presence and words of praise for Trump gave a nod of approval to other Black men tentatively willing to support this monster.

I guess Cameron considered himself a big man in that moment, somehow larger than life. Afterall, he gave a primetime speech at the convention and his name was circulated as being on the short list for the U.S. Supreme Court. He probably perceived himself at the top of his game—he had the blessings of the president and the support of Mitch McConnell.

He possibly felt so important, so invincible, so empowered that he could lie to a grieving Black mother who merely sought justice for the police killing of her beloved daughter. He lied with a straight face, mustered fake tears, played his own Black card, and then with malice and forethought lied not once, not twice but apparently as many as five times regarding how he positioned the case to the grand jury to yield the results he wanted which were to protect the police officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death even when any thinking person can clearly see their culpability.  

He obviously felt no compulsion to do the right thing. Who is this man?  I have no words to describe my disgust.

I cannot help but see him as being cut from the same cloth as the Clarence Thomases, the Ward Connerlys, the Condoleezza Rices, the Colin Powells, the J.C. Watts, the Ben Carsons, the Tim Scotts, the Omarosa of America.

And, as we learned from Cameron, such duplicity is not confined at the federal level. We see these Black people at all levels of government. Down with the people, marching with Black Lives Matter, but during moments when it counts, during times of police abuse in their own communities, cannot find the courage to speak out, to call out the police abuse, to call for an independent investigation. We see them leading the Republican Party at the state level bragging about how they want to recruit more Black men and women to the Republican Party, those who cannot grin wide enough when in the company of the president.

We see such individuals who barter the bona fide of their Black skin to be invited into rooms of the powerful, to secure financial support for their political campaigns, to be appointed to commissions, to be invited to the White House. Too often when entering such worlds, they come to believe they are immune from the everyday challenges of being Black in America.

Of course, they speak the words of lived oppression while simultaneously believing themselves to be the “exceptional Blacks,” the “Magic Negroes,” to use an outdated term. They are the “I have a Black friend” friend of those Whites who use them to explain away their own explicit and implicit biases.

The problem is, these Black people begin to believe they are somehow smarter, sharper, the exception to the stereotype definitions of Blacks. They come to believe they are welcomed into the world of elitism because they are special, because they are exceptional, because they are “magic.”

They begin to believe like O.J. Simpson, they are so gifted and so exceptional they can run through airports and jump over cars because, after all, they are “Magic Negroes.” Some however, have learned the hard way that Black exceptionalism does have its limits. Ask O.J., Omarosa and Connerly. 

Connerly, of course, is having a brief resurgence in popularity due to Proposition 16 which seeks to restore Affirmative Action in wake of the movement he led more than 20 years ago which destroyed it. He has come in from exile and obscurity, all too happy to once again put a Black face as a seal of approval on a discriminatory policy.  

Magic Negroes are not confined to the austere halls of the federal government and their fidelity to the Republican Party at all costs did not end here in California with Ward Connerly.  

These “Magic Negroes” appeal to unsuspecting communities who too often, looking for a champion, are wooed by their polished veneer. They are like pied-pipers, luring Blacks with lyrical flourish, “Look at me, the Republicans like me and I’m like you. Trust me, it is not what you think. Don’t believe your lying eyes, Black people. Look at me, I have a seat at the table, and you can too.”  

Those who sell this disingenuous happy talk to members of the Black community should be ashamed as voting rights are overturned; healthcare is being threatened, Black youth are being shot down in the streets by police (and I know, by their peers also); Black children are denied access to quality education; Black seniors die in poverty; unemployment rises; children are going to bed hungry; and all Black people have a COVID target on their backs, while most of these Black Republicans sit complicitly silent. It is appalling.  

Maybe these people suffer from what W.E.B. Dubois called double-consciousness. I want to somehow ascribe their inexplicable devotion to today’s Republican Party to this idea, which speaks to the internal conflict experienced by subordinated or colonized groups in an oppressive society.

Trump has a penchant for White Supremacy. His ideology and racist tendencies are always on display as evidenced in his often vile fascist rhetoric, his disregard for immigrants, how he heartlessly separated children from their parents, how he made it clear he has no problem with torture, how he allowed babies to sleep on floors, left women and girls in unsanitary conditions without even the basic supplies women and teenage girls need to manage their monthly cycles (which brought to mind the indignities endured by Black women during the middle passage and beyond). And recently, we learned of the forced sterilization of female detainees, as well as his calls to some of the most dangerous and racist forces in America to arm themselves and stand by.

With each egregious action, I tilt my head to hear Black Republicans in the inland region and across California speak out against such abominations and all I hear…are crickets.

History taught us, and Malcolm X reminded us in his parable about the two kinds of slaves, how certain slaves, particularly the house slaves, suffered from what might be described as Stockholm Syndrome. In a way, that helps me understand who these people are and why they do not speak out.

The house slave became emotionally attached to his master for favor. “He dressed like his master. He wore his master’s second-hand clothes. He ate food that his master left on the table. And lived in his master’s house.” These house slaves became so invested in their masters, so dependent upon the master for survival and approval, they internalized the master’s experiences. So much so that when the master became ill (as Trump is today), the house slave would say, “What’s the matter boss, we sick?”

Today the nation is sick and at a time when Black Republicans can show courage, few have found their voices locally, statewide, or nationally.

Of course, this is just my opinion. I am keeping it real. 

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