There is this almost monolithic idea that black people are on a journey, a fight of sorts, to move from Point A to Point B. That is, as a people we are trying to get from here to there. However, there isn’t really a known destination–it is quite simply just anywhere but where we are at the moment.
In 2000, “The Chris Rock Show” did a segment about black behaviors, chronicling our triumphs and our failures. After displaying black advances such as the airing of Roots, Jesse Jackson’s run for President, Venus and Serena Williams, Tiger Woods (“one quarter” of him anyway), and Colin Powell, he quickly followed with our loses (i.e. “steps back”). Our trip-ups included ghetto names, Marion Barry, Mike Tyson, The Source Awards, and Lil’ Kim. By the time Chris Rock was done, even black folks on their best behavior couldn’t save the race from falling completely off path. Journey over.
But what was most surprising about his skit was the idea that black people could benefit from the fuck-ups of others. A sort of advance-by-proxy where some other group/occurrence either disproves our status as criminal, lazy, victim-loving (see NAACP) folks or actually buys us some pity. But if Rock’s hypothesis holds, no matter what we do to move forward, whether on our own merit or as a gift from others, we will always find a way to fuck it up.
Meet Darryl Willis, the “Claims” guy at British Petroleum (BP):
Out of the over 90,000 people employed by BP, Darry Willis, employee number 89,999 “volunteered” to do the apology. Where’s Carl-Henric Svanberg, Chairman of BP? Where’s Tony Hayward, CEO of BP? Hell, where’s an English accent? It is certainly easier to understand over Darryl’s Southern drawl and definitely more fitting for a British company’s commercial. But nope, we have a brotha. A modern-day whipping boy. Somehow, Mr. Darryl Willis and the most minority-heavy work staff I’ve ever seen managed to make their way into one of the first BP apology videos. They are on the phone, in front of computers, handing out checks, and walking with sad fishermen. Of course, I’m aware BP’s employees may actually look like the folks in the video. I know all about outsourcing and the service industry. I just can’t quite figure out what the colored folks in this video were thinking. They aren’t cleaning, they aren’t crying, and they aren’t claiming. They are BP. And BP is the bad guy. One step back, two steps back, three steps back… Keep going.
Sadly, I have to say, Chris was right. Why did we ever bother to move in the first place? True enough, ten years after his Black Progress Chart, we have not made much progress, even after a black man has risen to the top office in the land. Because for every Obama, there are ten Darryls. Unfortunately, there is simply not enough common sense and achievement to slow the steady push of stupidity from the masses. With this said, here is where we will always be and there will always be someplace over there.