Just as the United States was readying itself to celebrate the Rev. Martin Luther King’s birthday and Barack Hussein Obama’s ascendance to the Presidency, VISA, the credit card company jumped on the bandwagon without missing a beat. With a full-page ad in Sunday’s NY Times Magazine, it introduced the “exclusive VISA Black Card.”
Yikes! I am old enough to remember the times when thousands marching under the rallying cry “I’m black and I’m proud,” and “Black is beautiful,” just so they could affirm their dignity and bring down the barriers to integration were sneered at, dubbed black power radicals who deserved nothing but jail for daring to defy the standing order.
Today, black is beautiful again, dixit VISA which adds that the Black Card is “for those who demand only the best of what life has to offer.” It reminds me of the campaign launched in 1968 by Philip Morris to sell Virginia Slims cigarettes to women as the women’s movement gained ground and broke through some glass ceilings: “you’ve come a long way, baby.”
President-Elect Obama and Vice-President-elect Joseph Biden have asked of all of us to dedicate some time today to community service. So I do my part by urging you to not take the bait: do not fall for the latest gimmick that credit card companies like VISA come up with in order to fleece you clean of the savings (if any left) that you have painstakingly earned. Think about it: what will the “Black Card” do for you that the “Gold Card” or the “Platinum Card” will not do? Nothing more and nothing less than get you deeper into debt.
Besides, I am frankly appalled by how strongly white supremacist ideology (as practiced by peoples of all shades and hues) continues to dominate the political discourse, fixing the popular gaze on the color of the incoming President’s skin, rather than the content of his character, in other words locking the necessary debate on the future of the US and the world in yesterday’s familiar black-white patterns.
Whether you agree or disagree with my take on the issue, let me know. I welcome your comments and contributions to this discussion.
Meanwhile, I invite you to visit the website every day this week to be introduced to the giants of the civil rights era, the men and women who made Obama’s ascendency to the presidency of the United States possible, but whose contributions have not been sufficiently recognized. People like Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, Robert Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer, James Lawson, James Farmer, Harry Belafonte, and Nina Simone. Today being the holiday set to celebrate Martin Luther King’s Birthday, we launch the series with him in the lead.
Thank you for your time. Together, let us go forward.