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Tuesday and Thursday
Will Smith says "all our excuses are gone!"

Props to Matt Bors for suggesting the punchline.

Will Smith appeared on Oprah two days after the election and expressed almost exactly those sentiments expressed in the first panel of this strip. You can watch the whole thing at oprah.com. Here is the full quote of what Smith said:

The history of African-Americans is such that you want to be a part of America, but we've been rejected so much it's hard to take the ownership and take responsibility for ourselves and this country. It was like, at that second, at that moment, all of our excuses were gone.
Smith is not alone among black liberal voters who have drawn this conclusion from the election of the first African-American president of the USA. CNN showed a clip of a young black voter celebrating in the streets on election night, exclaiming "No excuses!" And you can see a fuller explication of this meme on a subtly titled You Tube video "BARACK OBAMA WINZ! NO MORE EXCUSES 4 BLACK FOLK".

Commenting on this video, "Ungodly Bastard" concurs:

I agree, as a black man and a Obama supporter I better never hear a black man complain about white America holding holding us down again! White America overwelmingly supported a black President. So you're right, NO MORE EXCUSES!!!!!!!

The problem is: racism is not an "excuse," it's a condition of life, it's built into the systems of finance, education, culture, and government that have evolved since Europeans brought Africans to North America and enslaved them, gradually displaced native peoples through invasion and genocide, and developed legal frameworks that excluded people of color from political, economic and social participation. People of color have fought back, they have struggled, and continue to struggle, winning rights, liberties and improvements in their lives along the way, educating white people enough so that, at the very least, a young bi-racial politician who didn't act "too black" or "too angry" could raise $750 million dollars and fight for their votes.

I get what Smith, et al. are trying to do. Barack Obama is a role model, a positive representative of what young people of color can achieve if they work hard and make the right decisions. It's a message that as a parent I try to impart to my own biracial daughter (as well as my "monoracial" son), because we worry about our kids, we want them to succeed, we want them to be tough and get back up when they get knocked down. We don't want them making excuses when they don't try, when they whine that they "can't" or when you can tell they are just plain lazy. "Turn off the damn TV, read a book!" Every parent should have that command memorized. When they are confronted with racism, we want our kids to fight it, to confront "back" and to not tolerate it. And we don't want it to affect their self-esteem.

But the election of Barack Obama did not magically undo the legacy of 500 years of racism and oppression. It was one more yellow brick on the road to Oz, to be sure; hopefully he will seize the opportunity to undo the social and economic affects of that legacy, while also addressing the class-based structure of our society that exacerbates racism. A few of the things mentioned in today's cartoon — neglected neighborhoods, failing schools, predatory lenders and check-"cashing" establishments, poverty — afflict everyone in the working poor, a demographic that encompasses all ethnicities. Certainly people of color are hit harder by poverty and social injustice; and whites enjoy privileges that are more subtle yet no less advantageous. Nonetheless, as the middle class finds itself slipping into the ranks of the working poor, privileged folks like Will Smith or lesser privileged folks whom the economy has not (yet) punished should be wary of naiveté and assuming victim-blaming postures regarding the poor. Leave the "no excuses" lecture at home and keep fighting for social justice and equality.

1 comment:
Ron Fox (ronwf) says:

What did Oprah have to say about this?

Sen. Obama's election to the Presidency did not mean that there is no longer racism in America.  But it DOES mean that there is no longer a ceiling.  No one can say "A black man/woman can only go so far in the United States and no farther."  That HAS been disproven.

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Kevin Moore is the creator of Wanderlost, formerly known as Sheldon the Pig. A veteran of zines, underground comics and political cartoons, Kevin has been doing webcomics since 1999. He is also a librarian. ... full profile