Posted by: nquest2xl | November 5, 2008

Ann Nixon Cooper (from Obama’s tribute)

Ann Louise Nixon Cooper was born on January 9, 1902 in Shelbyville, Tennessee, where she attended school. After the death of their mother, she and her six siblings were separated and an aunt raised Cooper. In 1922, Ann Nixon married Albert Berry Cooper, a young dentist in Nashville, Tennessee. They moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where they started a family while her husband established his highly successful dental practice. Cooper has been a homemaker for most of her life, working briefly in 1923 as a policy writer for the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Cooper and her husband counted as their friends or acquaintances such luminaries as educators W.E.B. Du Bois, Lugenia Burns Hope and John Hope Franklin, Benjamin E. Mays and E. Franklin Frazier.

As an active Atlantan, Cooper has worked to improve conditions in the African American community for much of her adult life. For more than fifty years, she served on the board of directors of the Gate City Nursery Association. She was a founder of a Girls Club for African American youth in Atlanta and, in the 1970s, taught community residents to read in a tutoring program at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

In 1980, Cooper received a community service award for her activism from Atlanta’s WXIA-TV. In 2002, she was awarded the Annie L. McPheeters Medallion for community service from the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History.

As a centenarian, Cooper is the oldest member of the Atlanta Chapter of the Links, Inc. and has been a member of the Utopian Literary Club since 1948.

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — Ann Nixon Cooper, 106 years old, has seen presidents come and go in her lifetime and has outlived most of them. On a sunny fall morning, she left her weathered but well-kept Tudor home in Atlanta, Georgia, to vote early — this time for Barack Obama.

The African-American centenarian remembers a time not long ago when she was barred from voting because of her race. Now she hopes to see the day that Obama is elected as the nation’s first black president.

“I ain’t got time to die,” Cooper said with a smile.

“Even if he didn’t win, I was happy for him just to be nominated,” said the former socialite. “The first black president — isn’t that something, at 106 years old?”





The other day on one of my favorite Sirius talk radio shows, a White pro-Obama caller commented on how Obama’s “color doesn’t matter.”  You know, the “I don’t see color” kind of color-doesn’t-matter (CDM).  The host, Mark Thompson (of “Make It Plain”), had to just let it go for the sake of diverging into a topic that deserved its own show.  Of course, he asked the caller to explain what he meant and why CDM but the point Thompson was trying to make was loss on him.

The CDM idea was, apparently, something the caller hadn’t really thought about.  Obviously he felt CDM was/is a good concept and in his life’s practice it may well be.  But what does it really say?

I explained the problem with this concept once on Stuff White People Do in a thread that looked at a popular expression where the CDM concept comes into play.  The thread reflected on the times when someone White says of African-American(s), “I don’t think of them as Black.”

Now maybe you can see the problem.

As I noted on SWPD at the time, the CDM idea, by definition, says that there is something wrong with being Black or any “color” except for White, it seems.  Just like the picture on the cover of the children’s book above, Whites are at the center; viewed as the norm.  That’s pretty clear to see.  And when there are other CDM expressions like, “I’m a Man Who Happens To Be Black,” it’s clear how the idea of being “Black” is viewed as a negative, so much so that other aspects of a person’s being are used to subjugate it – to make it seem like being “Black” is an accident or something that’s wrong to emphasize and, worse, wrong to recognize.

Such is the history.

Indeed, the very historical moment that seems to have inspired White Americans (and others) to adopt the CDM attitude was one where Whites and Blacks, alike, had to deal with the history of seeing “blackness” as a bad thing.  So it’s easy to see how saying “color doesn’t matter” or “color shouldn’t matter” is a rational response to that history.  The only problem is:  the color-doesn’t-matter attitude actually perpetuates the idea that being something other than White, and especially being Black, is a bad thing.  But let’s think about that historical moment.

Perhaps no other idea has propelled the CDM concept and cemented it into the national consciousness as Dr. King’s famous (and most abused) lines from his “I Have A Dream” speech:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Nothing else screams out “I don’t think of them as Black” as loud as that.  That is, when a person takes a literalist-reductionist view of things.  The literalist says, “I can’t judge you based on the color of your skin.”  That logically leads to CDM.  The reductionist says, “that’s what MLK all wanted us to do,” but that, quite frankly, does a disservice to MLK.   The literalist-reductionist strips the idea from the historical moment and climate is was made in and ignores volumes of other things MLK said.  It also ignores other developments during that historical moment.

On SWPD, I explained how, historically, “White Americans had associated Black with all sorts of bad things.”  So it made rational sense for Whites to say, “I don’t see you as Black” — i.e. “I don’t see you as bad.”  But that reveals a serious problem and explains why the colorblindness the nation embarked on as a response to the civil rights era is seen as a form of racism itself.  Just look at the two expressions: Black and “bad” remain synonymous, mere substitutes for one another which suggests how colorblindness doesn’t fully constitutes a fundamental change from America’s more troubling racial past.

Now, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention how “Black=bad” was/is a concept that the Black community had to deal with and still has to deal with.  However, at that same historical moment, at the same time when Dr. King espoused what has been treated as “colorblindness”, Dr. King and the Black community at large engaged in a campaign to break the nefarious link between Black and “bad” by exalting the idea that BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL:

Unfortunately, expressions like, “I don’t see you as Black” and “I’m a man who happens to be Black”, miss that very important point of decoupling Black with “bad.”  If color really didn’t matter then there would be no reason not to see an African-American as “Black” and, likewise, no reason to marginalize someone’s Blackness by trying to highlight something people are more inclined to view more positively (e.g. a person’s “humanness”) even when those people includes your own self.

(Cross posted at

Posted by: nquest2xl | October 8, 2008



Posted by: nquest2xl | August 9, 2008

Obama is not running for president of Black America




I remember reading an article sometime last year when an African American women commented about how different Obama is from Jesse Jackson.  The woman said what a number of people have:  that Obama is trying to be president of all the people not just Black people.  So, beyond the kind of amnesia involved — because Jesse Jackson most certainly did not run to be “president of Black America” — something else is amiss.

After all these White presidents, few if any that were questioned in terms of whether they would really be “president of all the people”, the idea of a Black person running for president and having the nerve to view Black people’s concerns as important as anybody else’s…  Well, that’s what seems to be behind all this “he’s not running for president of Black America.”  I’ve actually seen/heard Black people refer to our percentage in the U.S. population to justify the rationale that our concerns aren’t that important.

So, no matter how many White presidents and Congresses that have for years either completely ignored or given short shrift and lip service to our concerns… after all that, the reason for supporting a Black candidate with broad(er) appeal is what??

Somehow African-Americans are supposed to support Barack Obama, in this case, and not expect anything?   or anything beyond what any random White president would do? This simply doesn’t make sense and reflects on a kind of self-imposed second-class citizenship African-Americans sentence themselves.  Our issues and concerns are as important, if not more important given the depth and urgency of the problems, as anyone else’s.  To dare act like any other group and expect a candidate to take a strong stance and show strong support for issues important to you translate in to something wrong, how?

No one is confused about what Barack Obama is running for president for.  No one.  So the only thing the “Obama is not running for president of Black America” idea communicates is that African-Americans shouldn’t expect anything from Barack Obama than they have from any random White person who would-be or is president which all begs the question:  WHAT’S THE POINT??

Posted by: nquest2xl | August 5, 2008

Open Letter to Brother, Senator Barack Obama

Dear Senator Barack Obama,

I’ve watched your presidential candidacy with interest ever since you announced that you would run. For the first time in my life, I voted in a presidential primary to support you. I’ve also supported you by challenging the myths and misperceptions people have had about your candidacy, particularly as it relates to where you stand in terms of policies and ideas that will help in improving the lives of African-Americans.

To be sure, I appreciate the time, effort and thought that have gone into the policies you’ve authored or co-sponsored in Illinois and in the U.S. Senate. I do, however, have to voice my concern regarding what appears to be a different track and different approach your campaign is taking, perhaps, for obvious reasons but troubling ones, nonetheless.

I won’t beat around the bush: I feel that you have treated the African-American electorate differently than you have other constituency groups. And by that, I mean you have been, in my opinion, disrespectful to Black voters who, in a number of ways are responsible for where you are today in terms of the success of your campaign. A recent example was the way you treated the hecklers in Florida.

I understand, perhaps, the history of the group’s antipathy towards you and your candidacy but never in my life have I heard a candidate basically tell potential voters s/he didn’t want their votes which is, in my opinion, what you did when you told the hecklers they had other options beside voting for you.

I was quick to agree with you that they were ‘misinformed’ but part of the responsibility for informing voters falls on you. It’s clear you understand that as a candidate, as a politician, because that’s what you and your campaign did in Pennsylvania during the primaries during your 6 day bus tour.

So, I say all that (and I could say more) to say this: I would appreciate it if you and your campaign would see fit to treat Black voters like you do Latino, Jewish, Native American and White American voter groups.

Whether or not you know it or planned it, ever since your 2008 Father’s Day speech, there has been a marked difference in how you address Black audiences and non-Black constituencies. Most notable is the way you make sure you inform audiences at La Raza, LULAC, AIPAC, etc. exactly, specifically and, dare I say, exclusively what you intend to do for them via your role as president in the government every time you go before them.

And that’s the basic thing. It seems obvious to me that your job as a politician and as a candidate is to talk about what government can do (or stop doing) to improve the lives of whatever group you’re addressing and all Americans. In my opinion and, more importantly, by my assessment of the differences in the speeches you’ve given before different groups, you have not been as vigorous, thorough and enthusiastic in informing African Americans about what you intend to do for us — what your specific commitments are to us (like the cabinet positions or special committee or liaison you’ve committed to establishing for members of other groups).

I say this knowing the drastic change in emphasis from your Father’s Day speech in 2007 when compared to your 2008 speech. I say this observing how you’ve talked about the dire statistics in the Latinos and Native Americans communities, for example — whether it be drop out rates or alcoholism — but have not viewed those issues as an opportunity to do something that’s, in my opinion, outside of the scope of your office/position as a politician and that’s talk about anything other than what you and the government propose to do about the situation.

You’re a Christian brother and I appreciate your faith but I would be remiss if I did not note how when it comes to other groups you “look beyond all their faults and see their needs.” For the sake of your own candidacy, for Black people’s sanity, if nothing else, I would appreciate it if you would also take that approach with African-Americans now and use your own platform, your full complement of policies that address many of the concerns and issues in the Black community, so that none of us will be misinformed about where you stand or have misgivings questioning if your stance has changed.

God bless you and your campaign,
Be strong and unafraid,
With love and respect,

N ~

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