With all this talk about race, religion and Obama, I thought I’d check in on The Field Negro, the black Philadelphia blogger who likes his truth unvarnished and his villains slow-roasted.
It takes practice figuring out what makes Field hot under the collar. First, his tongue is usually planted deep in cheek, so when he writes about Obamaholics you wonder if he's just trying to get a rise out of readers. Dumbocrats and Rethuglicans get equal mistreatment on his site. President Bush is Frat Boy, McCain is Mr. Morton (because he's salty.) Hillary Clinton is the Ice Queen. No one is spared.
The blogger who's been putting it out there since March 2006 from his Northeast Philadelphia home, spends his days as Wayne Bennett, 49-year-old attorney, who serves as special master in Family Court, presiding over custody and child support cases when not attending to his criminal law practice.
His nom de blog comes from the 1963 speech where Malcolm X distinguished house and field slaves this way: if there was a fire, the house slave went for the water while the field slave prayed for a breeze.
“I’ve got problems with my people,” I told the Field Negro.
“We all have problems with our own,” he replied. “I have a lot with my peeps.”
I relayed the account of Teri Simon, who e-mailed me in disgust after working the polls for Barack Obama outside the Main Line Reform Synagogue in Wynnewood last week. Simon said it was her worst campaign in 21 years.
Usually it’s Republicans she battles. This time it was Hillary Clinton supporters who ripped down her campaign materials and wouldn't give them back until Simon, an attorney, made noise about an injunction.
(Her Republican counterpart, Perry Hamilton, confirmed Simon’s account, saying she was nose-to-nose with one woman, like a manager arguing with an ump.)
Worse, Simons said, was the elderly Jewish women who told her matter-of-factly how they'd never vote for Obama. The husband of one went on how Obama was a Muslim Communist hellbent on turning America into a haven for Reds and Islamists.
The Field Negro's message for me was that we have much work to do, and that the only way to some sort of understanding is through honest discussion of race, class and sex. Plenty of blame to go around, he said.
“A lot of white people think we can't handle the truth about race and racism and the relationship we have the majority population. I think most black people get it. They understand that we have a ton of problems and that we really have to get our (act) together. We have to do most of it ourselves, and we really don't expect white people to look at us and say, ‘Let's give them a break.’ We get it that there are serious issues, but at the same time we want an honest dialog.”
He wants to hear the truth from the white guy who says his problem with Obama is his position on Nafta, “when really, he grew up in an era when you didn't have a black guy driving his bus and now he’s going to have one leading his country. He's uncomfortable. Say that to me. I respect that.”
At the same time, white people see videos of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor for two decades, and seem stunned. “News flash!,” he said. “This is how certain blacks groups talk among each other and this is what happens in barber shops or the Sunday dinner tables. But we're not honest either. White people hear that, they say, ‘What the hell, that's what they think? It all comes down to honesty.’ ”
His online bio describes him as “raised in the house, but field certified. He grew up privileged in Jamaica, the son of a minister with a position in the leftist government of Michael Manley. He went to school in Alabama, worked in LA, studied law in Louisiana, then came here 15 years ago to work as a prosecutor. His blog, a cheap way to vent anger has drawn a modest, loyal crowd, about 1,200 readers a day and laurels as the best political/news site in the Black Weblog Awards
“At the end of the day, when this election is over, if Hillary wins, there will be hell to pay from the other side," he said, winding down. "The Democrats are going to find a way to lose this thing. Part will be race and part will be sex and class, and I think we’ll have this conversation until the the election over. then we'll be back to square one until something happens again, a Katrina, an OJ trial, and then we’ll be back to talking about it.”
I looked to his blog to see what he saying about the latest on Obama and the Rev. Wright. His most recent post started in on it, then veered away. He was more concerned about the mayhem on the streets of Philadelphia.
Five people killed over the weekend, eight others shot.
So let's see now, we are at 101 and counting ( I have to remember to update my Killadelphia murder count on my sidebar), and our new Mayor is starting to realize that talking and good PR is nice. But he might want to spend a little less time running around with Hillary and more time focusing on what is going on in his damn city.
Tuesday night he was moved by events to update. He's put a light in the window, a pot of water on the boiler, and is welcoming those who worry their candidate has taken too direct a broadside to the bow:
Obamaholics I promised I would be here for you when this thing started, and I don't plan to let you down now. I told you that when the real A-merry-ca raised her ugly head and torpedoed your boy's run, you could come here and find some solace. So here I am. Ready to counsel console, and just be a shoulder to cry on.
But, he allows, it ain't over. And so we beat on ...