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Ask the black woman

Diverse City
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  August 19, 2009

I've lived in Maine for seven years and been writing for this fine publication for about five, and during that time I've covered a wide array of subjects on the issue of diversity in Maine.

Oddly enough, despite putting myself out there like that on the printed page, blogging about diversity, speaking on the subject publicly a couple times, and even appearing on a local radio talk show once, I bristle sometimes at being asked how Black people view this, that, or the other thing.

It's not that I don't like to share my insights; I just don't like people to think that I know what every Black person feels — nor to think that every Black person thinks the same. If they did, how in the hell did we get Alan Keyes on one end and Cornel West on the other?

But I have to recognize that it's quite possible to live in Maine and never encounter a Black person (not so easy in Southern Maine, but still possible). So, I'm going to give y'all a chance to ask me questions and from time to time, I'll answer them.

Oh, stop laughing. Remember that "fist bump" between Barack and Michelle Obama? Most of you didn't know what to make of that. Some of y'all thought it was a "terrorist fist jab." You're dying to ask some questions, admit it, and I'm here to answer them as your unofficial Black ambassador.

Since I just started this, and you haven't had time to ask me anything, let's just pull a random question I've heard more than once over the years, and which I'm assuming must boggle a lot of White folks.

How come whenever something happens in the Black community, the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are always front-and-center to yammer at the media faster than Kirstie Alley can go through a plate of shrimp scampi?

White people tend to think this "dynamic duo" are just a pair of race hustlers who want to stick it to "The Man." And because we Black folks don't call them out publicly when they get too wild, we must agree with them and allow them to speak for us.

Well, I'll be honest: I'm not sure either why we see them pop up every time something goes wrong in the Black community. Except for the fact that the media loves to have a spokesperson for every group, and nobody gets to the mic faster than those two. Too much trouble, I guess, to track down hipper, younger, well-educated folks like Black linguist and race-issues writer John McWhorter.

We needed those two once upon a time, because no one would listen to Black America when shit went down. And they had big mouths and big personalities to go with them. They didn't always say the right thing, but at least in the days before Barack Obama broke the color barrier to the Oval Office, they often were the most prominent and reliable voices we had.

In the end, though, their role isn't that much different than a Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, who are out on the insane edge of conservatism and are, to many conservatives with functioning brain cells, an embarrassment. But at the same time, they are riling people up and helping to pull people farther away from the left, so they serve a purpose in some ways.

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  Topics: News Features , Barack Obama, Media, Special Interest Groups,  More more >
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