I must say that I am very, very proud of the Williams sisters. I love Venus’ quiet style and Serena’s coy brashness. They make us all look good, we Americans.
And I am so very proud of Tiger Woods. The intensity that he brings to his craft will go down in history, but he never lets it interfere with his quiet, polite nature. He’s so international, a fine advertisement for the American melting pot.
And God knows, I am inordinately proud of our president, B. Hussein Obama. What an elegant, graceful, and thoughtful man! All of a sudden we have a president with the casual charm of Cary Grant, combined with the steely determination of General George Patton.
But mostly, I am proud of Black Americans in general, and each of them. I’ve said it before, the achievements of Black Americans over the span of their time in the New World puts them in the forefront of all of the races and cultures and social groups in the world.
I remember one time on the subway in New York, it was about 1966, I was young and I was just working out my feelings about these things. It was the middle of the day, and the car was full but not to overflowing. All of the seats were taken, and there were a few standees. To my right, down a few people, was a young mother with two children, I don’t remember the ethnic information but they were interacting comfortably and the children seemed excited to be on the train. Across from me and a couple of seats to my left was a middle aged Black man. He was wearing very boring clothes; inexpensive dress slacks; a long sleeved dress shirt with some pattern in it; a knit tie; and sensible shoes. He was neither thin nor fat, I’m sure that his doctor was well pleased with his weight. He had glasses that were on the square side, the tone of them, not the shape, and his haircut just shouted normalcy. He watched the young family out of the corner of his eye and had the most wonderful expression on his face, and expression of delight and approval. He got off at City Hall, lots of city government offices around there, I figured him for some kind of mid-level city bureaucrat.
Here was a guy, I thought, who was born with none of the advantages that the world could offer who seemed to have carved out a nice niche for himself, through hard work no doubt, but without sacrificing his humanity in the process. A modest, unassuming man who knew what was important in this world. I had been around long enough to know what a total bitch it was to be Black in America. Black Americans, I decided, had a knack for surviving and overcoming the terrible roadblocks that life put in their paths.
An analogy to poker: anybody can win with a full house, that’s easy. And anybody who pays attention and has a couple of dollars can stay in the game for a while. But it takes a special talent to play along, not bringing any money to the game, and never getting the good cards. That’s Black Americans. No money, and they never get the cards, but they’re still in the game after lo, these hundreds of years.
Americans must never forget the huge cultural debt we have to our Black brothers and sisters. Just look at old Europe and recall how dull the whole thing seems to us. We, unlike our bland European cousins, have Black Americans to enrich our lives through their music, their speech, their fashion, and their joie de vivre.
We Americans should thank God every day for our Black American entertainers and athletes, and for all of our Black American brothers and sisters, and each of them.