Askia MuhammadColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

MUHAMMAD: Multicultural White Power

Even as most everyone in this country is still recoiling in disbelief after the treasonous, violent assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob directed by Donald J. Trump, aimed at disrupting the democratic process of certifying Joe Biden’s Electoral College presidential victory, some Black folks are bordering on giddiness over the rash of diversity in recent high-level appointments by Biden.

There is much to applaud. But Biden’s boasting that his super-diverse Cabinet is the best thing since sliced bread is a bit overblown.

Because of the centuries-old history of racist and sexist exclusion of Blacks and women from positions they deserve, and even from opportunities to pursue careers in so many fields, there is good reason to cheer when glass ceilings are shattered. But some of Biden’s and the appointments of others seem to me like choices were made like folks dining in a Chinese restaurant: take one person from “Column A,” another from “Column B,” and so on.

I never thought I would understand how folks feel who object to quotas, but California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s selection of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the Senate seat of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris left me feeling robbed, and that perhaps he didn’t choose the best-qualified person for the job, in order to appoint the heavily-Latinx state’s first Chicano senator. A “quota” appointment.

My choice would have been Rep. Barbara Lee, the only member of the House to vote against authorizing George W. Bush’s illegal and immoral war against Iraq back in 2001.

I don’t have any specific objections to Biden’s pick, but choosing a Black four-star general to be defense secretary might not be as spectacular as choosing Gen. Colin Powell, a Black four-star general was to be George W. Bush’s secretary of state.

What I’ve observed is that white folks have been disgustingly consistent. Over the decades I’ve watched wacko white nationalists dominate the Republican sphere of influence morphing from Barry Goldwater to Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush to the Tea Party to the Freedom Caucus to QAnon to the Boogaloo Boys to the Proud Boys to Trump, with each one becoming more toxic than the one who went before.

But for us, every time the game is played, Black folks are suckers for the multicultural rope-a-dope. Blacks appear to me to be still mostly focused on, and eager to applaud, “first Negroes” integrating this-that-and-the-other field of endeavor — entertainers, athletes, sex symbols (boobs and abs) and folks who accumulate mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money. With each “success,” we cheer simply a reflection, when someone wins the approval of and acceptance into the white, Neoliberal establishment by being more like white people.

Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, the incoming Pentagon chief, is an example. I wonder is his principal qualification simply that he will be the first Black secretary of defense?

And while I remained mostly silent about what felt like Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ pandering to her “skee-wee” Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters, and her traipsing all over the country in Converse Chuck Taylor basketball shoes, I think she took that cuteness a little too far when she posed for the cover of Vogue, one of the world’s most prestigious fashion magazines.

Instead of being smartly dressed in a dignified outfit like the Black suit and Black leather shoes she wore in October for her debate with outgoing Vice President Mike Pence, Harris is pictured on the magazine’s cover in sneakers, in front of a backdrop representing the AKA colors.

Even though Team Harris said they were blindsided and that was not the picture they agreed on with the publication, lots and lots of Black folks were tickled about the picture, criticizing those who complained about its tackiness, rather than having beef with the magazine — white passport, white privilege, I suppose.

Me, I’m tired of Black people being utensils in our own oppression, being the new, multicultural messengers of white supremacy thinking, of white oppression, being happy and content, just because one of us “made the cut.”

White folks want to bend us to their way, rather than accept us for the intrinsic genius of our own being.

I agree with Brother Malcolm X, who reminded us that back in the day, when the master’s house caught on fire, the house Negroes would rush to help put the fire out, but the unruly, field Negroes would pray for a strong wind.

When it comes to white suppression, cultural and otherwise, I’m praying for a strong wind to fan the fire that is burning down the house of white supremacy — not at long last for a place inside that house.

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Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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