‘Obama’s America’ Town Hall Live Blog!

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  • This is it!

    For days, we’ve been preparing for this national town meeting, “Obama’s America: 2010 and Beyond,” co-hosted by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and me – and now, the time has come.

    I’m about to take the stage at historically black Texas Southern University to discuss before a live audience of about 10,000 the idea of a post-racial America. It’s a term I’ve never heard before and wouldn’t be hearing if we didn’t have a black president. In fact, if we didn’t have a black president, I wonder what MSNBC would be airing on this King holiday. What would we be talking about? Would we even be paying attention to the president and his every move if he weren’t a black man? I doubt that I would. But the reality is we do have a black president, and with that comes certain expectations that only a super hero could accomplish.

    I’m still taking questions, and I want to know what you think about the idea of post-racial America: Does it exist? Will it – or even should it? What happens to black culture and diversity in a color-blind society?

    Just something to think about. I’ll be chatting with you up until showtime, then the TJMS’ senior producer, Nikki Woods, will keep the flow going. And you know no Fly Jock blog party would be complete without a drinking game. So take a drink every time you hear the word “racism.” Will come up with more later.

    Thanks for all your help. Because it isn’t really just President Obama’s America; it’s ours. And this is our night to be heard.

    8:57 p.m.: Hey, party people, it’s the Fly Jock! I’m texting and pacing the floor getting ready to go represent.

    8:58 p.m.: If you were me, what’s the one thing you would want me to get across to mainstream America when it comes to race?

    8:59 p.m.: Oh, here’s a heads up. Chris Matthews is going to make a critical comment about President Obama right out of the box. Can you handle it, or are you going to switch channels on me?

    9:03 p.m.: Chris says he thinks his strongest moment was when he spoke after the Haiti crisis. Do you agree?

    9:04 p.m.: So, we’re here on the campus of Texas Southern University, and the cafeteria is closed! It IS the King Holiday, but I was looking forward to some mac and cheese!

    9:06 p.m.: If you’re online and an alum of TSU or any HBCU, let me know. I might give you a shout out.

    9:08 p.m.: How are you celebrating the King Day holiday? Did you go to a parade, prayer breakfast, a program at church? How many times have you heard “I Have a Dream” today? You can’t hear it too many times; I’m just asking.

    9:11 p.m.: Be sure to tell your friends and family to tune in tonight. Who knows what can happen if we deliver some big ratings. Maybe Chris Matthews and I will get our own reality show. Move over, Tiny and Toya!

    9:14 p.m.: I’m in the make-up chair going over my notes. Is that breaking a man law?

    9:20 p.m.: Now, I know some of you will have to make a tough decision — Do you watch “Obama’s America: 2010 and Beyond” or do I watch “Let’s Talk About Pep?” Turn at least one TV on MSNBC. Turn the one with the biggest screen on MSNBC. I picked up a little weight over the holidays. When was the first time you were a victim of racism, and what was the incident?

    9:28 p.m.: And on the flip side, when was the first time you discriminated against someone based on their race?

    9:29 p.m.: How much of your feelings about other races are based on what you were taught by your parents or grandparents.

    9:30 p.m.: And here’s another good question: Where’s the best place to eat in Houston, and do they deliver?

    9:41 p.m.: Do you think we raised the bar too high for President Obama? In other words, could any one live up to the expectations we have for him? He’s been elevated to a status that few men ever live to see. Has the brother been set up? I don’t think so; I’m just making conversation.

    9:43 p.m.: But I do think that people expect a lot out of him … and they should. Why else would we have elected him if we didn’t think he accomplish his goals? And he said himself he probably won’t be able to do accomplish them in his first term of office.

    9:53 p.m.: Okay, I’m going to be taking that long walk to the front of the stage in a minute. I just want to say to all the people who have said talk is cheap, and talk won’t change racism: I know that. But not talking about it is wrong too. I know a two-hour special isn’t going to change most people’s minds, but at least it will put some things ON their minds. So, wish me luck!

    Once the show gets started, Senior Producer Nikki Woods will be here in my place, keeping the live blog party going.

    10:00: p.m.: Hi, I’m Nikki Woods, senior producer of the TJMS. The show has started; I hope you’re tuned in. We want to hear your comments, so send them in. What do you think about the first comment about President Obama?

    10:03 p.m.: How’s Tom doing so far? How would you have liked him to answer the question about whether the president is showing enough strength?

    I love the way MSNBC puts images together. But America is certainly not picture perfect and its going to be interesting to see the panels views on whether or not we have made any gains on racial inequality.

    10:04 p.m.: Stephen is about to be off the chain.

    10:06 p.m.: Black males, does white America now expect you to be just like President Obama? And is that necessarily a bad thing?

    10:09 p.m.: Should we be looking at President Obama with less emotion and pride as African-Americans and simply judge him on his achievements since he’s been in office?

    10:11 p.m.: A lot of the panelists seem to think we as a people and a country talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. Do you feel the same way?

    10:12 p.m.: Chris Matthews is doing a good job of letting the panelists get their points out. You know he loves to talk.

    10:14 p.m.: Post-racial society? Won’t there always be some prejudice between the races?

    10:15 p.m.: Do you agree with Stephen that if we are just left alone, African-Americans would be better off?

    10:16 p.m.: Let’s go to the poll … after the break. Thanks, Chris. LOL

    10:20 p.m.: So, now to the poll …

    10:21 p.m.: Based on MSNBC’s poll, we have more hope since President Obama came on the scene.

    10:23 p.m.: I always wonder, though, when people are going to be accountable for the situation they are in and when, as a race, we will hold ourselves accountable for some of the issues we bring on ourselves.

    10:25 p.m.: Do you think our children feel the effects of race relations as deeply as we do?

    10:27 p.m.: My six-year-old was shocked that we had never elected a black president. He couldn’t understand or fathom that somehow African-Americans were not good enough to be the leader of the free world.

    10:28 p.m.: Tom looks like he is going to bust.

    10:30 p.m.: I knew he had something he had to get out!

    10:33 p.m.: Do we as African-Americans get so caught up in our own issues that we don’t think about other minorities in the USA?

    10:34 p.m.: People use the words “prejudice” and “racism” as if they mean the same thing. What is the difference to you, and do the two words affect you differently?

    10:37 p.m.: Does talking about the history of African-Americans and slavery in the U.S. give our youth an excuse to not be successful?

    10:40 p.m.: I think it would be absurd for my children not to know about the sacrifices our ancestors have made so that we can be prosperous and successful. People died so that we could have the right to elect an African-Amerixcan president. And it was just a generation ago.

    10:42 p.m.: How much do you share with your children about racism? I agree that we should instill in our children that we should judge people based on character, but they should also know that not everyone is going to view them that way.

    10:43 p.m.: Big ups to Barbara Jordan!

    10:45 p.m.: Does this new panel seem a little unbalanced? Or is it just me?

    Donna looks beautiful, but I digress …

    10:46 p.m.: Okay, so this brings me to one of my biggest pet peeves … Negro dialect?

    10:47 p.m.: Is this the same thing as talking “white” or “acting black”?

    10:48 p.m.: The old watermelon argument … LOL. Thanks, Tom!

    10:49 p.m.: That a lot of pastel between Cornell and Tom …

    10:50 p.m.: Interesting question that Chris just asked …

    10:51 p.m.: Does America view President Obama as not quite black because of his background?

    10:53 p.m.: Just as we protect President Obama, white America circles the wagons around their own as well. What kind of excuse did Chris just make for Senator Reid?

    Raise your hand if you’re just sick and tired of excuses in America …

    10:57 p.m.: I am sure Tom will continue this conversation tomorrow on the TJMS, so be ready to text your thoughts, questions and reactions to tonight’s program to 646464.

    11:01 p.m.: Tom got the reparations question, of course. and kept it real: “C’mon, man – we know that’s not going to happen!” But Chris sounds like he was kind of with it!

    11:08 p.m.: Affirmative action. Now it’s going to get hot in there!

    11:10 p.m.: It could be your hair style, Cornell. What is it about Cornel’s and their hair?

    11:13 p.m.: Leslie Sanchez is taking the bait. Chris.

    11:16 p.m.: Look at Chris, presenting for affirmative action – AND reparations. That “getting in the game” analogy was spot on. Plus he often refers to his wife as “my queen.” So he’s more down that you’d suspect.

    11:17 p.m: Are you hanging in there with us? What about generational racism? If you’re under 30, do you think you have more friends of varied races than your parents or grandparents did?

    11:19 p.m.: If you do have friends of different races, do you say the same things around them that you say when you’re around

    9:27 p.m.: We’re about 30 minutes away from showtime, and here’s a question for you. people of your own race? Or do you tailor your comments like most people do, to fit the company you’re in?

    11:24: Why does this scholar seem to be dismissing the realities of the young black males she polled about their votes for Obama? She’s talking about them as if they are objects, not people. But I think Tom and Chris are serving her up for our friend, Jeff Johnson …

    11:25 p.m.: … and score! Like Jeff says, it’s more about the man, not the melanin. How many of our parents voted for Jesse Jackson or Rev. Al? They weren’t ready for that jelly!

    11:31: What need be said after filmmaker Shola Lynch’s time with the mic?

    11:42 p.m.: Loved the motley crew of comedians to help lighten the mood. David Alan Grier outshone them all. Note: Wouldn’t new spring episodes of “Chocolate News” be right on time?

    11:55 p.m.: Tom’s wrapping up with Chris, decrying the need for a completely colorblind nation, celebrating the tapestry that is America and the cultural diversity that binds it — and us — together. Hopefully the two will huddle afterward to take their show on the road for King Day 2011!

    Well, it’s been quite a ride. For me to be here in Houston on the campus of Texas Southern University hosting a national forum on race with the first black president as the focal point on the King holiday is something that says a lot for how far this country has come. We still have work to do, but that doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge what’s gone forth – the good, the bad and the ugly. The discussion will continue tomorrow and beyond, and that’s what freedom and free speech is all about.

    Thanks, you all, both for watching me on “Obama’s America” and for dropping by the party. And thanks, Nikki, for filling in for me. Like she said, text your thoughts, questions and reactions to tonight’s program to 646464 (OhOhOh).

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