When Will Black People Get Some Respect?

05/29/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


President Obama has achieved what no other President has been able to by getting the health care reform bill passed. Agree or disagree, "that's gangsta!" So can a brotha finally get some respect? For that matter, can black people in general get a "what, what"?

After President Obama's election various media pundits began using this historical event to drudge up the question usually reserved for Black History Month: Have African Americans, or as the United States Census Bureau likes to call us, Negroes, made any social progress? Well yes, we have, but has that progress truly earned us additional respect? That's debatable. Now to be fair some of us in the black community have chosen to be part of the problem by demonstrating behavior displaying a lack of self worth, but for those of us who are not part of the "pants on the ground" nation, there is a situation.

Maybe it's just that ignorance gets more spotlight, but lately too many people think it's okay to blatantly disrespect black people. From health care reform protesters hurling the "N" word at Congressman John Lewis, to a recent anonymous shopper "bogarding" a New Jersey Wal-Mart's PA system demanding all "black people leave the store", it would appear that racist buffoonery has been kicked up a notch. We can even take it back to when Republican House member Joe Wilson heckled President Obama during his healthcare speech to Congress shouting, "You lie!" (I don't remember any other President receiving this level of insolence.) I've even seen news articles referring to our President as "Mr. Obama". Excuse me it's President Obama-recognize! Some believe it's fine to "ol' boy" the President.

We can come up with reasons/excuses to explain these incidents and say it's just a few ignorant people whose behavior gives the impression that race relations haven't really improved. I'd like to believe there's been significant progression regarding how black people are perceived, received, portrayed and treated in society. But when I see clips of what looks like former President Bush wiping off his hands on former President Clinton's shirt after shaking hands with locals in Haiti, I wonder. Even if it was just a knee-JERK reaction to an encounter with a sweaty palm, it sure came across like some racist b.s. And if this was a misinterpretation of Bush's poor judgment, as of yet, we haven't heard any clarification from the Bush camp. I'm just sayin'. The lack of black appreciation is also reflected in media, especially with network television experiencing what looks like a "black-out."

There are no black shows on network television except for The Cleveland Show on FOX, and it's a cartoon. (The main character's voice isn't even done by a black man.) Though there are a few brown people sprinkled around on television, I'm still finding stereotyped characters. I was watching the NBC show Parenthood, and at first gave it an eye-roll noticing that there weren't any black characters, but then I saw model/actress Joy Bryant. I thought, okay, at least they're trying, only to find out her character is the "baby-momma". Really? Bryant's character pops up with a five year-old son, a product of having been an "ex-flame" of one of the main characters. And she's a dancer-because we all dance. The writers of this show couldn't find any other way to incorporate Bryant into this all white cast? (And with no black shows on NBC - or Latino or Asian - they have the nerve to utilize the slogan, "More Colorful"? Now that's comedy!) From our President getting dissed in unprecedented ways to still being subjected to the easiest stereotyped images of African Americans, it just makes me wonder what decade is this?

Here we are in 2010 with a black President and it feels like more and more people think it's still okay to display an overt disdain for black people, regardless of the position we hold; whether it's a matter of showing flat-out contempt, attempting to mitigate our participation in any given area, or the continuation of manufacturing stereotyped images. Maybe the problem is that brown power is gaining momentum and some just can't deal with change and are choosing simple-minded coping mechanisms. The only constant in life is change and resisting with racist retorts is not only lazy, but ineffective. The mindsets of some may or may not transform, but our responsibility as black people with "...certain inalienable Rights..." is to hold those engaging in defamatory behavior accountable and continue to do what we do best; thrive with as much or as little respect as we get.