Post-game show with The Field Negro

fn_banner-2

What better way to sort out what just happened than by breaking bread with the fiery black Philadelphia blogger who goes by the name "The Field Negro."

Back in primary season, when I was asking if America was ready to elect a black man as president, Field was trying to prepare his readers for the big let-down. Obamaholics, as he calls them, were going to need to be put on suicide watch.

"I was wrong," Field began yesterday. We sat at the Down Home Diner over identical plates of scrambled eggs, home fries and toast. He was wearing a black suit, his BlackBerry on the table. By day he is Wayne Bennett, 50, a special master in Family Court, where he sees custody and child-support cases when not practicing criminal law.

His provocative handle comes from the 1963 speech in which Malcolm X described house and field slaves this way: If the plantation was on fire, the house slave ran for water while the field slave prayed for a breeze.

Yesterday, Field pronounced himself deeply humbled. His postelection post began, "May I eat chicken instead of crow?"

He'd watched the election results the night before at home with his wife, Delores, the the engineer daughter of an Opelousas, La., sharecropper who could neither read nor write. Delores cried all night.

"She remembers walking in Opelousas, and she'd see her father stepping off the sidewalk when white people were coming. She called her dad last night."

Field said he was impressed by the mixed company that gathered in Chicago's Grant Park to hear Barack Obama's victory speech.

"I was watching different crowds at the same place. The black people were cheering and almost not even listening to what he was saying, they were so happy. But the white people were transfixed by his words, [thinking] 'This person can really change us. This person can change our country.' "

And yesterday, when Field woke up, he took a look around, and half expected to see a change in the air. He couldn't. Not yet.

"I wonder what life's going to be like for the black family that's making less than $25,000 a year, the single mom who's a certified nurse's assistant, she's got two or three kids. And now that she has a black president, she's expecting something in her life to get little easier. It won't.

"But if her boys are, say, 8, 9, 10 or 11, she can say to them, 'It's cool to be a nerd. It's cool to hit the books.' It's huge."

Field was a kid like that. He grew up well-off in Jamaica. His father was a minister in the leftist government of Michael Manley. The blogger's bio describes him as house-reared, but field-certified.

He went to school in Alabama, worked in Los Angeles, studied law in Louisiana, where he met his bride-to-be, then came here 15 years ago to work as a prosecutor.

Looking to vent, he started his blog in March 2006, and the Black Weblog Awards named it best political/news site. While most of what he writes is tongue-in-cheek, his space is a safe house for candid discussions about race, especially in the comments section, where people of all colors meet.

Field has said he would be the first person to criticize Obama should the new president do something foolish, or pander to conservatives - which is one of Field's paranoias.

When he wondered how it was that a black man with a Muslim name could nearly double John McCain's electoral vote, I likened the prize - two wars, financial disaster - to a Jaguar up on blocks.

"OK," Field said, rolling. "The wheels might be coming off, and the engine is shot. But we're happy to have that shiny car finally, and now we are going to have to drive it. This country ain't as bad as a lot of us thought it was. I misread how white America cared about their family and their country more than they cared about the race of a guy running for president."

Me, too.

Continue Reading