Common sense versus book sense. Priviledge versus deprivation. Negros versus Nigga's. Following your life plan versus those of others. All within the context of the 1990s black experience. These were the common themes of Goodman Theater's production of Radio Golf last night.
I love the plays of August Wilson, in the same way I love the books of Walter Mosley and Octavia Butler, Branford Marsalis's I Heard You Twice the First Time CD, and movies of Spike Lee for their desire to chronicle the African American experience in America. They are all able to capture the diversity of the community, as well as our enduring quest for justice.
The themes of Radio Golf seem evermore important with the rise of Barack Obama. There is the wonderful scene in which Sterling Johnson, the voice of conscious in the play, asks Harmond Wilks, the aspiring mayoral candidate, "Are you going to be the mayor of black people or white people?" Harmond responses that he will be the mayor of all people. Sterling laughs at that response and laments why is it that whites can have an all-white club, but when black people have a club they say, "And it won't be for blacks only." He wonders why in a school of 1500, if the only 8 blacks kids sit together at lunch, they are "self-segregating" but no one says anything about the other 1492 kids who are sitting together.
Obama cannot afford to be a president for black people (and he has never positioned himself that way.) There was an interesting article about in the NYTimes about his tenure as head of the Harvard Law Review, during the contentious time when figures like Cornell West were being drummed from Harvard. His peers all stated that he avoided "racial" questions and would seem to appear as if he was on everyone's side. Consensus building is a great diplomatic skill, but it does make you feel that Clinton has been the only president for black people, and that will not change if Obama is elected. Which is not to say that I do not support Obama and that his consensus building message is not what is needed for the nation, I just mean we, black folks, could never have him as a leader to call our own.
The irony is that the needs, desires, and expectations of the black community are the ones for everyone: social and economic justice, strong family life, low crime, and true educational and job opportunity. If you met the needs of black folks (as was done through the Civil Rights Movement), you meet the needs of everyone (except the subset of the wealthy and priviledged who do not want the aforementioned things).