Race and politics are not new themes, but I have observed an expanding movement to where racial identity is often at odds with patriotism. This was most recently and publicly displayed when actress Stacey Dash came out in support of Mitt Romney.
Many know Dash from her role in the film “Clueless” and more recent projects like “Single Ladies.”
Dash’s endorsement of Romney created such a maelstrom of controversy that she decided to sit down with Piers Morgan of CNN to address the backlash.
I believe some folks are truly shocked when confronted with the reality that they do not enjoy the same autonomy as others. Did I send Dash an offensive tweet, or worse, the American Idol Season 3 Christmas CD? No, but I did give her the side-eye based on her statement.
Like it or not, people from marginalized groups are seen as having a monolithic voice. And even those within such groups often deal harshly with dissenting voices. It is the same phenomenon that makes you cringe when you see someone on the news with whom you share a culture being interviewed with missing teeth, speaking broken English and inevitably ending with a shout out to “Peanut and them.”
Dash, who has all her teeth and is well spoken, caught a lot of flack from folks who were downright pissed by her statement. One tweeter shared, “You’re an unemployed black woman endorsing Mitt Romney. You’re voting against yourself thrice, you poor beautiful idiot.” (I know it’s harsh, but I am still impressed when anyone can work the word thrice in a sentence.)
And even famous black folks chimed in, including actor Samuel L. Jackson, who is public supporter of President Obama. He tweeted, “Wait, did Stacey Dash Really endorse Romney today?! REALLY????! Is she CRA...........??!"
So where does all this tension come from as it relates to having ones racial identity questioned based on political affiliation?
The ugly reality is that whether folks take on that responsibility or not, the expectation is still there, draped casually across our shoulders like an invisible shawl. Dash was dealing with the harsh reality of “speaking” for her race and negotiating the backlash when her individual philosophy collided with the status quo.
For those wishing to field-test this theory, simply visit any urban church, hair salon, barber shop or Red Lobster and announce your support for Romney, then note the response you get. Conversely, others should visit more mainstream haunts sporting Obama regalia to record similar reactions.
Do I understand Dash’s position? No, not really. But I don’t have to, and that is what really defines the strength of our nation; that regardless of our filters, and the perceived or personal pressures that come with those filters, we all have the autonomy of individual thought and choices.