Friday, November 02, 2012
A Note On Campaigns & Race in New Mexico - Guest Blog by Hakim Bellamy
Inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, New Mexico (2012-2014)
It was therapeutic to walk the streets of Albuquerque for my friend and House District 30 Candidate Mary Ellen Broderick today with my 4 year-old son. It was cool to teach him a lesson about democracy. It was cool to teach him that we value the things we work and fight for more than the things we are granted. It was cool to get him some practice pounding pavement and knocking doors, and demonstrating democracy by foot and by fist. It was necessary because of a week of recent experiences that challenged my faith in the place I choose to raise my child.
Last week, on my way to 4th of July Canyon with my favorite patriots (sons Tobey and Kaylem), we passed a huge white sign that said “Shove It Heinrich.” At that moment, I decided that I was going to make the time to knock on doors in hopes of getting 10 Heinrich votes for that one obnoxious sign owner. That sort of sign (reminiscent of the antagonistic signs that became emblematic of Tea Party rallies) attempts to nudge the very fine line that separates a peaceful, electoral exchange of power from a hate-fueled, violent rebellion. It is fine to disagree with Martin Heinrich, but a pro-Heather Wilson sign would be much more “American” than the vitriolic hate speech this citizen chose to turn into signage. Unless Martin personally said something about this citizen’s mother (or father), there is no need to shove anything, ANYWHERE.
However, I ended up walking for Mary Ellen today, after deciding that she probably needed a Black man walking her district north of Osuna and east of Wyoming. I felt my visual appearance in a neighborhood “like that” would either win Mary Ellen votes she needs (that she might not get per chance of the way she looks) or lose her some votes she doesn’t want (per chance of the way I look).
On a weeknight last week, I pulled into the gas station by my apartment near Lomas and Tramway. It’s a four-pump station, and me pulling up made for three cars. I got out and walked inside because I’m familiar with this station’s pumps, and their inability to accept a purchase from my debit card. Behind my car is a women who appears Anglo-Latina and goth, pumping her own gas with a Mexican-American appearing male in the passenger seat of her “way to many miles on it” sedan. On the other side of the pump is an older Chicana woman in her white Taurus getting gas as well. I tell the attendant that the pump won’t accept my card, like I do every time I get gas there, and return to my vehicle.
As I pump my gas, I notice the car that was behind me is gone, and then the abuelita says something to me in Spanish. I say excuse me, and she repeats her exclamation while visibly upset. Then, she proceeds to tell me (in English) that when I walked away the “do nothing” male in the passenger seat said that he hopes my car “blows up.” I assume he meant that my car would ignite while I was getting gas, in which case he obviously has so little of a life that he watches way too much television. Then, my abuelita friend continues to tell me the rest of the story. She tells me how he laughed when he said it, because he said it quiet enough so I could not hear him and loud enough so she could. She tells me how she spoke up because that pisses her off, and she has Black grandbabies and did not side with him simply because they were the same color, in the same state, at the same gas station. She tells me how he got uncomfortably quiet when he realized that she, who was probably his grandmother’s age, did not find his comment amusing. She tells me he was probably made quitter because she was, in fact, disappointed in him (like I imagine his grandmother would be). She tells me how the girl said nothing and they drove off, and how she sees this type of behavior far too often in New Mexico.
Then, she tells me that I will be blessed. She says she prayed over me because his bad energy and irresponsibility may have cursed me…a curse of incompetence, but a curse nonetheless. So she prayed for my prosperity, and I thanked her. She smiled. And I realized my 4 year-old son was in the back seat the whole time. He had heard this guy articulate how he wanted him and his daddy to perish in a ball of gasoline fire. However, he also heard someone that looks like his school teachers stick up for us….to somebody that looked like her.
When I drove off, I though about my Grandma Ida who just passed on Labor Day weekend, and how this abuelita reminded me of her. I thought of how my grandma was watching over me in the form of this woman that day. And as I canvassed the door of a 96 year-old Albuquerque woman in the Heights, I was excited before I was disappointed that she was not home. I was disappointed because I am sure she would have reminded me of my grandmother as well. I am sure she would have been my Grandma as well. However, I got to have conversations with New Mexicans of many different colors today. Some were D’s, some were R’s and some were I’s. But they all gave me faith in this state. They all (except one guy who talked to me from the other side of a closed door) took the time to see another human being. Regardless of my candidate or political affiliation, they took the time to be open. They took the time to be open to our differences, but also our humanity. And they did not wish for my son and I to die a fiery death or tell us to “shove it.” They reminded me why I choose to raise my son here. Faith restored.
I loved reading this story ... Thank you for sharing it.
Posted by: Lora Lucero | Nov 2, 2012 3:10:32 PM
The reason for Black prejudice in NM is a bit different because it is largely due to the rarity of Black people in the state historically. New Mexicans are not used to seeing Black people and the Black culture is somewhat considered displaced here. Also, Black people are so "dark".
Being prieta, or morena or dark as Hispanics, carries an old discrimination of the fairer the person, the more beautiful and special. The more white or "wedo" looking, the more due a bit more privilege. We are unconsciously prejudiced of each other even within our own families.
Posted by: qofdisks | Nov 5, 2012 9:17:13 AM
Hakim, thank you so much for working for votes by going door to door, for your efforts to make this a better place, and for showing your son how it is all done by your example.
This story brings tears to my eyes because it is honest and because you (like always) walk the talk.
I'll pitch in for MEB today, and I'm sorry I was not in town over the weekend to do what you did.
Blessings to you and all.
Posted by: bg | Nov 6, 2012 8:57:10 AM
So glad to hear these happenings - and your motivations and your honoring your grandmother - blessings through her spirit, yes, I think it is all related that way. Thank you for being there in all those places for those folks, and for letting us know.
Posted by: cirrelda snider in albuquerque | Nov 6, 2012 6:18:20 PM