January 4, 2013

Can't See the Silly for the Kwanzaa

“He/She just can’t see the forest for the trees.” That’s an old saying that means someone’s missing the big picture because they’re too bogged down in the details.

Enter Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman. This guy planted a whole bunch of trees in a press release stating“"Almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa -- just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people's throats in an effort to divide Americans…"

I thought it was stupidly funny; but in the meantime, not everyone shared my sense of humor. There’s been outcry on television, radio, Facebook --furor over his feeble attempt at dismantling Kwanzaa, attacking Black traditions and whether the man is a racist or not.

I don’t know if Senator Grothman is a racist, but what I do know is that Kwanzaa sure as heck isn’t going anywhere. The Senator's words are just that. Words. Hurtful to some who cherish the holiday. But just words. Silly words.

So, let’s look past the trees here just for a minute and break down the part of his statement that’s caused a rather misguided, I think -- ruckus: “Almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa…”

Does Glenn Grothman know all black people? Each one? So how could he possibly know the proportion of black people who care or don’t care about the holiday? I know! Maybe he’s done a nationwide Care-About-Kwanzaa poll and I just missed taking it. Or maybe he attended the AMAABP (Annual Meeting of All American Black People) where a formal resolution to Not Care About Kwanzaa was passed by an overwhelming majority.

On second thought, maybe he’s got a black friend – or heck, maybe he’s friends with some black people. (Hang with me here, it could happen.) It’s quite possible these friends don’t celebrate Kwanzaa. But even if he’s friends with one or two, a whole clan of black folks, or is a card-carrying member of an African Methodist Episcopal church, don’t friends usually share the same taste in music, beliefs, political leanings and values? You know…birds of a feather?

People usually hang out with like-minded people. So if he’s not big on Kwanzaa, wouldn’t it reason that neither are his black running buddies? But even so, it probably wasn’t wise to take their viewpoint as representation of all black people and then issue such an inane press release. That’d be like me assuming that all white people like brussel sprouts just because my white husband does and then take it a step further by bringing them to every family gathering. Hi everyone…I brought brussel sprouts again because white people just love ‘em!”
Silly isn’t it?

What’s sillier to me is that pundits, bloggers and community activists are speaking out about this attack on Kwanzaa, defending its principles and the man who instituted the holiday. That’s not what this should be about. Why is no one saying "Hey Senator! You can't put a people group's opinions, feelings or thinking -- of any race -- in one category!"

It seems the trees are blocking the real issue which was demonstrated with sublime sillyness: the broad brush with which the Senator has painted an entire race of people. And chances are that if he lumps black people's feelings under one umbrella, he's doing the same with other races or ethnicities. Who knows? Maybe he's the guy who's always bringing brussel sprouts to the annual potluck.

I don't think the Senator needs an education about Kwanzaa,, its principles or its founder. He needs to be educated on a couple of things: 1.) That people groups – of any race or ethnicity -- are not monoliths, and their members operate independently from the whole; and 2). He should probably do his homework before speaking on any race’s behalf. Or just cede the spokesperson position altogether.

Now for the record, no, I don’t celebrate Kwanzaa. It’s not that I’m against its principles, but I’m a Christmas girl who believes that Jesus encompasses all of Kwanzaa’s principles and more. And besides, after one month with two birthdays and then Christmas and New Year’s, I’m pretty much celebrated out.

Neither do I know the Senator, nor is this an attack on him. I’m just saying that his press release indicates a bigger problem that everyone should call him on. And that problem’s got nothing to do with Kwanzaa.

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