Obamistan! Land Without Racism: Your Guide to the New America

Obamistan! Land Without Racism: Your Guide to the New America

by damali ayo
     
 

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On November 4, 2008, the citizens of the United States gave prejudice and discrimination a boot to the backside. The pride of this accomplishment was echoed from mountaintops to bus stops as Americans ran through the streets with tears streaming down their faces, crying, “Racism is

Overview

On November 4, 2008, the citizens of the United States gave prejudice and discrimination a boot to the backside. The pride of this accomplishment was echoed from mountaintops to bus stops as Americans ran through the streets with tears streaming down their faces, crying, “Racism is over!”

            What does this dramatic evolution mean for you? This guide will help you familiarize yourself with the exciting postracist America--a land its loyal citizens now call Obamistan--through user-friendly explanations of new sights, sounds, and policies, along with eyewitness testimonials, news clippings, pop quizzes, and tips for those who miss the old America. From hot-button issues like immigration, foreclosure, gentrification, reparations, and health care to holidays, toilet paper, pronouncing people’s names, and Dick Cheney’s cozy new digs in Guantánamo Bay, this indispensible guide is guaranteed to help all Obamistanis feel right at home.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Teases out the foibles of racial dissonance with penetrating subtlety."  —Washington Examiner

"Uncomfortable? Sure. But How To Rent a Negro is also funny, biting and valuable."  —Ruminator

"damali ayo has a nuanced, observant, and thought-provoking perspective on how racism works. What she also possesses, though, is a wickedly wry sense of humor, fully at play in Obamistan.  —Harry Allen, Media Assassin and hip-hop activist

"I'd been having this bad dream, that racism was still a problem. But damali ayo's Obamistan is like a warm cup of milk and a muscle relaxer! She's a brilliant humorist, and this ironic romp through post-racial America is pure genius."  —Tim Wise, author, White Like Me and Between Barack and a Hard Place

"Funny, pointed, and consistently absorbing."  —Davy Rothbart, creator, Found Magazine, and reporter, This American Life

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781569762431
Publisher:
Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
04/01/2010
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Obamistan: Land Without Racism

Your Guide to the New America


By Damali Ayo

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 2010 damali ayo
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-56976-623-1


CHAPTER 1

What's It All About, Obamistan?

Almost everything has morphed with the changing of the color guard. Sometimes you will feel like a stranger in a strange land. Do you need help navigating the ups and downs of this fresh new terrain? Obamistan! Land without Racism is your user's manual. With this guide in hand, you will discover where to pay the white tax, how to get your reparations check, where to welcome your family as they cross the border, what happened to that crazy racist uncle of yours, and much more. Are you ready? Turn the page and get your Obamistan on!

A

Accents

A Testimonial by Su Yin

I swear I am about to cry as I write this. I really thought this day would never, ever come — not in my lifetime, not in the lifetime of the kids I hope to have one day, not in the lifetime of the grandkids I hope to have one day. But today that day finally arrived.

My whole life I have heard people make fun of the way they think Asians and Asian Americans talk. People have been harassing me with "ching chong" for ages in school, offices, and on TV (shout-out to Rosie O'Donnell, Al Roker, and Kathie Lee Gifford).

On top of that, when I told people that I was Taiwanese, people used to act surprised that I was not a plastic doll, since that's the only thing they knew of, that came from Taiwan. Then they would say, "You mean, you're Chinese," as if Taiwan were a gated community in the suburbs of Shanghai. It felt like a miracle when someone actually knew about Taiwan, let alone understood the historical struggle between it and China.

But today ... today I woke up in Obamistan where I will never have to hear "ching chong" again. I will never be told, "You speak such good English!" No one will speak loudly and slowly to me assuming that I am an illiterate, illegal freeloader instead of a summa cum laude graduate of an Ivy League university whose family has been here for generations.

I pinch myself every day wondering if it is real. Even better, my biological clock has gone off permanent snooze. Now that there's one less terrible thing my kids will have to face in this world, I think I might even start a family.


Acting White

For decades people of color were kept outside of mainstream success by the charge, "You are acting white" and the guilt that this phrase imposed. Many held themselves back from academic excellence in an attempt to portray themselves as authentic members of their racial group. Some refused to speak proper English or learn English at all. This made Bill Cosby furious. Brown-skinned boys and girls across the nation hid their country music CDs under their mattresses and behind their Ludacris posters. They joined Internet communities where they used code names to find other people "like them." Young virtuosos of color practiced viola and oboe secretly in their closets, while in public they spewed gangsta rap lyrics and strained their necks carrying oversized boom boxes. Kids who could have been Pulitzer Prize-winning poets and journalists spent their days practicing adding -izzle to the ends of words.

The good news is that in Obamistan white people no longer corner the market on being smart, studious, wealthy, well spoken, or sophisticated. The bad news is ... well, depending on who you are, that might be bad news.

This should be liberating for Bobby Jindal, who seems to have forgotten that he can be a conservative, straight-up nutso Republican and still keep his Indian name. Now that's progress!


Adoption

Toward the end of Old America, there was a growing adoption crisis. So many needy kids were being passed over in favor of trendy and affordable foreign babies. Many children of color in need of homes were left wandering the streets only to be picked up by welfare-seeking foster parents. This prompted international outrage and response. After Bono held a benefit concert titled "Orphan Aid," white Europeans began to adopt Old American children of color in droves. So many Europeans adopted brown Old American babies that Angelina Jolie's brood started to look like the Partridge Family. The streets, foster homes, and adoption agencies in Old America were virtually emptied of children of color in a matter of months. Formerly unwanted Old American children now had posh lives in regal homes in gracious countries full of wine, cheese, art, and music. The kids loved it.

That's what really got the attention of Old Americans, who hated being outdone by Europeans. Of course, the New Americans — Obamistanis — wanted little Malias and Sashas to call their own. How dare the Europeans take what rightfully belongs here at home! Since the formation of Obamistan, cross-racial, in-country adoptions have doubled. It is rumored that it is harder to get on waiting lists for brown-skinned Obamistani babies than the lunch list at Spago. The demand is so great that some Latino and black Obamistani families have started adopting the white children who have been left behind.


African American or Black?

You remember this one. This was a constant conundrum in Old America: what do we call the darkies?

Black is beautiful! Black power! Many Old Americans felt that the word black was a word of pride. Others, tired of being compared to the grim reaper, spam, communists (blacklists), extortion (blackmail), and sins on the souls of Catholics, felt like it was a dirty word tantamount to an insult. In the face of inconsistent messaging by black ... err ... African American people, who couldn't agree on what they wanted to be called, it was absolute mayhem. White people were even heard using black as a noun, similar to an object like a shoe or a profession like a mechanic: "You're a black" or "I love you blacks." People just didn't know what to do with the word. It is a wonder the country elected a black ... African American ... half-black ... biracial ... white-mamma-having-but-still-black-err-African American dude at all.

In Obamistan people know that a wide range of dark-skinned people can have a black experience in this country without having ever set foot on a slave ship. Jamaican English, Barbadian Germans, even some Puerto Ricans have a black experience, though none of them are African American. Obamistanis get the "both and" thing.


Airports

A Testimonial by Pardeep

I am loving Obamistan! It has made airplane travel so much easier. Flying used to be easy for me but then 9/11 and all. Shout-out to all my black friends. I know you didn't have it easy before the whole terrorism thing went down, but since then, all laser eyes have shifted focus from black to brown. In Old America I had to get to airports an extra hour or two early to allow for interrogation time. Every time I flew to Ohio for a family gathering I would get asked, "Where are you really going?" Then my ticket would be flagged for "special search," which could take an unpredictable amount of time depending on how many times I had to rewrap my turban. Then I'd end up being manually scanned by some guy with a baseball-bat-shaped wand because I couldn't take off my kara. They seemed to think it was some kind of weapon. (I don't know how to kill someone with a bracelet, do you?) I don't even want to talk about what they'd do to my beard. A few times I rented a car instead. It was actually faster than flying.

But now ... I sail right through! In fact, last time I flew, the TSA looked at my boarding pass, called me by name — with a Mr. in front of it! — cautioned me to stay warm because Ohio was having a rough winter, and waved me through when my kara set off the metal detector. "No worries," said the attendant. "Bole so nihal! Have a good visit with your family. Make sure you come back, though. We'd miss you if you were gone for too long."


American Indian

Ah, the story of Old America ... A courageous and adventuresome explorer named Columbus strikes out for the subcontinent but ends up — whoops! — miraculously stumbling onto a "new world" where scores of his future progeny would be sure to prosper. The only glitch was the tons of people already living there. Columbus, ever faithful to his poor navigation skills, called these people "Indians" since India was where ol' Columbus was headed anyway. He probably figured that it wouldn't matter what he called the people he found living there since they would soon be extinct.

One of Columbus's many legacies is that the term Indian is pretty darn confusing. For the record, there is an actual country named India that is full of actual Indians. Some of these people even live in the United States and call themselves Indian American, which gets readily confused with the term American Indian, which evolved from Columbus's misnomer. This caused Old Americans to think and say some wacky things in their failed attempts to distinguish between the two groups: "What kind of Indian?" "Do you mean a giant-diaper Indian like Gandhi or a bow-and-arrow Indian like Tonto?" At their worst, some people would ask, "Spot or feather?" Old Americans loved to reduce racial identity to kitschy sound bites.

In Obamistan, people have actually figured out that indigenous North American peoples are not from India. Correct: Columbus did not actually land in India. It only follows that the people he found here are not Indians. You will find that Indian is used to identify people who are from the country of India or have Indian heritage. Conversely Obamistanis honor the people who were here when the country was colonized by using the term First Americans. Obamistanis, ripe to get credit for their historic first of ending racism, are quick to acknowledge any other group that deserves props for its own "first" credit.


Animal Mascot: The Wandering Albatross

It is time to bury the old bird. The bald eagle is an unmistakably regal and powerful creature, but Obamistan wanted a new, fresh mascot to go with its new, fresh attitude. The bald eagle's white head, holding its intelligence superior atop the laboring limbs of its brown body, did not sit well with the newfound passion for equality that marks the Obamistani spirit. Plus the eagle has a nasty habit of gouging out the eyes of its rival birds, an image Obamistan was eager to shed. Obamistan is a country with a sensitive soul, a broad reach, a commitment to all it has lost and won over the course of history, and an all-over speckled coloring.

The new animal mascot for Obamistan is ... the wandering albatross.

At first glance, this might seem like a truly odd bird to represent the country known as the leader of the free world, but allow yourself to dig deeper — that is the Obamistani way. The wandering albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird, up to between 251 and 350 cm (Obamistan finally switched to the metric system). Though such wide wings can cast a cold shadow over anyone in the vicinity of the bird, Obamistanis prefer to view this as a symbol of Obamistan's willingness to welcome everyone and anyone under its brown and white feathers.

The wandering albatross is an industrious arctic bird, able to withstand a variety of climates, a fact that evokes Obamistan's ability to emerge from the long, cold period of its racist history. It is equally light and dark in color; this symbolism alone speaks volumes. It mates for life. Once Obamistan has become your ally, it will have your back until the very end. When picking a mate, the bird does a famous sky-pointing dance in which it waddles around and thrusts its beak upward over and over again, puncturing the sky with its determination. Like the bird they have chosen as their mascot, Obamistanis thrust their heads above all others as they work stubbornly toward their most idealistic dreams, no matter how impossible they might seem. It was this trademark tenacity that allowed Obamistanis to conquer racism and establish their fine new country. They are committed to applying that same kind of determination to everything they do, from ending pandemic war to financing those fancy new hybrid SUVs. Obamistanis never worry about how silly they look or how humble they feel when they are aiming for greatness.

The legends and myths about the wandering albatross are a rich part of the Obamistani image. Traditional yarns tell us that this sentimental bird is a symbol for preserving the memory of lost sailors. In tribute to those people who gave their lives in the founding and building of the country and to those who lost their lives around the world in Old America's quest for world domination, Obamistanis proudly display the symbol of the albatross on their uniforms, currency, and all official documents. The plethora of ribbon-shaped magnets that were mutating like viruses on the backs of cars in Old America — in a bumper-sticker stand-off not seen since the Vietnam War — have been replaced as Obamistanis acknowledge their fallen soldiers without resorting to divisive ribbon wars. Images of the new bird please the entire political spectrum. The wandering albatross declares that the stories of those who have died for this country — whether through conquest, genocide, enslavement, overthrow, or being sent off to die at the feet of its enemies — will never be forgotten.

In an effort to protect the bird and exalt its place at the helm of the new land, wandering albatross sanctuaries have popped up all over the country. The National Geographic Channel hosts a daily half-hour show at 5 am for people to wake up with the bird that guides them. The host of the show offers ways that the habits of the bird can inspire greatness in even the simplest Obamistani citizen. This is followed by Wandering Albatross Workout, which really puts your personal wingspan to work. Kids cuddle up with comforting albatross stuffed animals and sleep soundly knowing that their country loves them. Suze Orman's new book, An Abundant Albatross, provides great new tools to funnel money into your most heartfelt goals. Ken Burns is working on a feature-length documentary about the albatross due to be released on the next Fourth of July.

Finally, no one can forget the infamous albatross from the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which exemplified the cumbersome and menacing weight of the world. But instead of shooting the albatross with a crossbow, Obamistanis embrace their flawed hero. Obamistanis proudly wear wandering albatross pendants as a reminder that they have lifted the weight of racism from around their necks and therefore can conquer anything. Actors, athletes, and spelling bee champions, tugging tearfully at their pendants, thank the albatross for giving them the strength they need to meet their goals.

A wonderful, rich, and beloved mascot, the wandering albatross prompts Obamistanis to believe that no matter how heavy or awkward the burden of history might sometimes feel, they will be able to spread their wings, point to the sky, come out of the cold, commit for life, and live forever in the legends of the world.


Apologies

Here are a few "apologies" that were often overheard in Old America that just won't fly in Obamistan:

"I'm sorry you felt hurt."

"I'm sorry you misunderstood."

"I'm sorry you don't see things my way."

"I'm sorry you got offended."

"I'm sorry I benefited from your genocide and abuse, but there's nothing I can do about it now."


You get the picture. After centuries of weak apologies for the crimes that helped to establish the United States, the country finally realized that admitting responsibility, taking action, and making amends were considerably more effective at healing wounds and bringing the country together as a whole. This emerged naturally after the fall of racism because the country realized that centuries of "I'm sorry for slavery" paled in comparison to giving a black guy the keys to the Oval Office. The country seemed to voice a collective "Oh! So, that is what access to real power means!"

This trickled down to all aspects of Obamistani culture. With reparations checks arriving daily in the mailboxes of people of color and the white tax in full swing, the country had a good wake-up call about the cost of treating each other poorly. Children started to treat each other kindly on the playground for fear that they would have to give their favorite toys to the kids they pushed around. Abusive husbands stopped beating their wives when they realized that it meant women would be entitled to their four-wheelers. Slumlords started fixing up housing units so they would not have to pay for their tenants' groceries for the month. Police knew that they would have to spend a night in the slammer if they arrested someone who simply "looked criminal." It is one of the most exciting results of the fall of racism.

Unfortunately, apology culture was deeply embedded in the Old American psyche. It is going to take some practice to get rid of a few of your old tools and crutches. People just don't trust the words "I'm sorry" anymore. In Obamistan you are more likely to hear someone say, "I understand what I've done, and I will work to make sure I never injure you or anyone else in that way again. Is there anything I can do now or in the future that will help redress this wrong?" It takes a little longer to say, but it does wonders for you and the person you may have hurt.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Obamistan: Land Without Racism by Damali Ayo. Copyright © 2010 damali ayo. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Harry Allen
amali ayo has a nuanced, observant, and thought-provoking perspective on how racism works. What she also possesses, though, is a wickedly wry sense of humor, fully at play in Obamistan. (Harry Allen, Media Assassin and hip-hop activist)
Tim Wise
I'd been having this bad dream, that racism was still a problem. But damali ayo's Obamistan is like a warm cup of milk and a muscle relaxer! She's a brilliant humorist, and this ironic romp through post-racial America is pure genius. (Tim Wise, author, White Like Me and Between Barack and a Hard Place)
Davy Rothbart
Funny, pointed, and consistently absorbing. (Davy Rothbart, creator, Found Magazine and reporter, This American Life)

Meet the Author

damali ayo is the author of How to Rent a Negro. She is the creator of the popular rent-a-negro.com, a satirical website that explores race, and the National Day of Panhandling for Reparations, a nationwide street performance. Her work has been featured in ABCnews.com, Harpers, NPR, Time.com, and the Wall Street Journal, as well as for various international newspapers.

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