I TRY to keep a low profile. Maybe you see me in the hallway but don’t know my name. Say hi to me in the coffee room but don’t really know me. I break my silence now because of this election mess. Before the primary in Pennsylvania this week, Bill Clinton was doing magic tricks — now you see the race card, now you don’t. Geraldine Ferraro and Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, have been complaining that Barack Obama is leading in the Democratic presidential campaign only because of his skin color. Multimillionaire TV pundits are lecturing “the common man” on how outraged they should be about Mr. Obama’s elitism.
It’s all hokum, and I should know. For it is I, The Guy Who’s Where He Is Only Because He’s Black.
Most folks don’t know much about me, apart from the feeling of injustice that hits when I walk into the room with my easy charisma and air of entitlement. I understand. It’s weird when your government passes legislation, like equal opportunity laws, that benefits one single person in the country — me, The Guy Who Got Where He Is Only Because He’s Black.
People think I have it easy, but it’s surprisingly difficult being The Guy Who Got Where He Is Only Because He’s Black, what with the whole having to be everywhere in the country at once thing. One second I’m nodding enthusiastically in a sales conference in Boise, Idaho, and the next I’m separating conjoined triplets at the Institute For Terribly Complicated Surgery in Buchanan, N.Y., and then I have to rush out to Muncie, Ind., to put my little “Inspector 12” tag in a bag of Fruit of the Loom.
It’s exhausting, all that travel. Decent, hard-working folks out there have their religion and their xenophobia to cling to. All I have is a fistful of upgrades to first class and free headphones. Headphones That Should Have Gone to a More Deserving Passenger.
Guns? I wish I had a gun! Ever run out of truffle oil before a dinner party and have to go to Whole Foods on a weekend? It’ll make you want to spread a little buckshot around, that’s for sure.
Look, we’re all hurting, trying to make ends meet. I have serious overhead with all the résumés I send out. The postage is one thing, but I also like to print my résumé on a nice creamy bond. I think it sends a message. Then there’s the dry cleaning and the soap — I prefer to be clean and articulate in my interviews, put my best foot forward. I think it’s working. People are responding to how I present myself.
I know some folks feel bitter about me, as bitter as the first dandelion greens of the season. Yet these people are not without hope, hope that is drizzled on those dandelion greens like a dash of sweet pomegranate vinegar. Do they begrudge the scorpion its sting, or the duck its quack? How can I be other than what I am, The Guy Who Got Where He Is Only Because He’s Black?
Frankly it’s a lot better than my last two gigs, The Guy Who Left the Seat Up and The Guy Who Took the Last Beer, although I do suffer from a lot of work-related injuries, as you can imagine. For all this jibber-jabber about how I don’t understand a working man’s problems, you should take a look at my medical chart. I have carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, miner’s lung, scapegoat rash and vintner’s dropsy, and just last week I burned my thumb making horseshoes. The funny thing is, I didn’t want to be a blacksmith. But I heard they had an opening and I couldn’t help myself.
I put in a good day’s work, unwind with a little Marx, and then settle down for some well-deserved rest. I have a nice bed. It is a California king. It is stuffed with gold doubloons, the treasure I have accumulated by gathering the bonuses and raises that would have gone to Those Who Would’ve Gotten It Except for That Black Guy. The bed is quite comfortable. I sleep O.K.
It makes the head spin, this talk of who’s elitist and who’s not. I’m confused, myself. For years, they said you can’t have this because you’re black, and then when you get something the same people say you got that only because you’re black. I mean, here I am, The Guy Who Got Where He Is Only Because He’s Black, and yet the higher up you go in an organization, the less you see of me.
It’s as if Someone Out to Prevent Me From Getting What I Worked For is preventing me from getting what I worked for. If only there were something — a lapel pin or other sartorial accessory — that would reassure people that I can do the job.
Some people say Barack Obama and I get everything handed to us on a silver platter. But we don’t let it bother us. We’re taking those silver platters and making them our canoes. Then we’ll grab our silver spoons and paddle to a place where people get us. North Carolina, maybe. Or Indiana. I hear Oregon is nice this time of year. We’ll paddle on, brother, paddle all the way to the top.