.22. An African American Buddhist man has patience and realizes it is not easy to subdue the faults of one's own disposition. (Contemplations For Black Men, Rangdrol, pg 22)
Fussin' and fightin' among Black men has never been a pretty sight. In fact, it grieves people of all persuasions to see potential uplift dashed about the rocks of harsh speech and stern attitudes towards one another. This is especially true among powerful black men who've achieved and been honored with the privilege of representing masses on the global stage.
Dr. Cornel West and President Obama recently shared their minds publicly in a way that exposed their disposition under stress of leadership and responsibility. Black men are only in the first generation of high profile professorship and presidential responsibilities. We have much to learn about the humility necessary to lead effectively at the global level. High profile public discourse is no place for a street corner verbal thrashing. The world doesn't work that way.
It really doesn't matter who's right. The fact is core issues can easily be lost in the rancor or verbal and political disrespect openly expressed as intense personal opinions. The question of who is free is easily answered in such circumstances. Both parties are equally trapped within the context of brow-beating arrogance that serve little purpose for themselves and others.
One wonders whether recent interactions between Cornel West and President Obama stem from deep contemplation of appropriate conduct in public discourse. According to the article below each man feels he's serving the people, yet fail to recognize their own dignity is barely maintained in the way they speak of one another.
Both men have legitimate points to argue and perhaps people will benefit from the discourse. Sides will certainly be taken. But who'll save these two titans from self-demeaning anger and frustration?
The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West Went Ballistic:
Obama and West’s last personal contact took place a year ago at a gathering of the Urban League when, he says, Obama “cussed me out.” Obama, after his address, which promoted his administration’s championing of charter schools, approached West, who was seated in the front row.
“He makes a bee line to me right after the talk, in front of everybody,” West says. “He just lets me have it. He says, ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself, saying I’m not a progressive. Is that the best you can do? Who do you think you are?’ I smiled. I shook his hand. And a sister hollered in the back, ‘You can’t talk to professor West. That’s Dr. Cornel West. Who do you think you are?’ You can go to jail talking to the president like that. You got to watch yourself. I wanted to slap him on the side of his head.
“It was so disrespectful,” he went on, “that’s what I didn’t like. I’d already been called, along with all [other] leftists, a “F’ing retard” by Rahm Emanuel because we had critiques of the president.”
“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable." Article
Personally, I'd rather not see these two sitting down having a beer at the White House. Self restraint would be sufficient. There's got to be a better way to handle their differences given the amount of intellectual power and resources on the table between them. Neither is Buddhist nor do they need to be. Still, there is something to be appreciated in the Buddhist approach to Black masculinity. Refraining from harsh speech is a Buddhist tenet taken seriously for obvious reasons.
I'm raising sons in Hawaii. Dr. West has a point about the president's lack of contact with "up by my bootstraps," black men during his up bringing in 1970's Hawaii. I was raised in the heart of a urban black ghetto and find nothing particularly noble about that experience either.
The fact is human beings must evolve regardless of where they're raised. The vision must be forward. Thank goodness we're raised differently. Our diversity is America's greatest national defense asset. I think growing up itself is more important than origins. Every person must grow to see and sometimes endure his or her faults in a way that avoids harming others. Each of us must make sure our worst enemy when we become stressed is not an unwillingness to address our negative disposition.
I'm sure in the final analysis cooler heads will prevail. The people will be served because ultimately they serve themselves by deciphering the subtext of leader's thoughts and actions. Their is never a reason to lose hope. In the meantime perhaps these brothers can contemplate the goals they seek (breathe...), and work more closely to achieve them.
I hope so, don't you?