“I saw my love walking down the aisle and as he passed me by, he turned to me and gave me a smile”
Those are the opening lines to a song written by Motown’s William “Mickey” Stevenson, and Norman Whitfield titled “It Should Have Been Me.” The song was recorded and made popular first in 1963 by Kim Weston (backed by [would you believe?] The Supremes), then Gladys Knight & The Pips, Yvonne Fair, and years later, Adeva.
The storyline is about a dejected woman who attends the wedding of the man who had promised to marry her, but instead marries another. When the preacher says if there be any objections to the wedding speak now, the woman shouts, “it should’ve been me!”
I was reminded of this song as a newscaster asked the question: Why are all these middle-class White guys that make up the “proud boys,” the “boogaloo” and other White supremacist/extremist groups, so angry and emotionally charged? In previous writings, I had attempted to explain my thoughts on the matter, but just today, the best illustration came to me.
From the time they were born into the world, little White boys grew up with unlimited dreams and notions of possibility – “who knows, you might become president someday!” Little Black boys did not, and in many cases were told either by their parents, their teachers or other authority figures, that their choices were very limited. The year 2008 changed all that when a Black man, Barack Hussein Obama, was elected president. It was a major paradigm shift! When that happened, a lot of White guys, I won’t say all, but a lot of them, feeling dejected, began thinking “it should’ve been me…or it could’ve been me!” They are those who embrace the ideology that White people are the superior race.
So, when Obama became president, it became a greenlight for Whites in general from the lowest to the highest levels to deduct – if a Black man can become president, the standards must have been lowered, and I have license to act out my superiority anyway I please. On a personal level, I can attest to that mindset.
During my career in office management, I worked in several environments – legal, aerospace, real estate, biotech, sales – and I would often be asked by rank ‘n’ file White employees, “How did you get this position?” I internalized and translated that to mean, “if you can do it, surely I should be qualified to do it too.” Their reasoning had evolved from the result of the laws of affirmative action. The best illustration of the perception that standards were lowered is when at a 2009 joint congressional session, Representative Joe Wilson interrupted President Obama’s speech, shouting “You lie!”
With no harsh consequence to Wilson’s action, it seems to have sent the signal that it was okay to disrespect the Office of the President and get away with it. And remember the tarmac scene when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer pointed her finger in Obama’s face? Obama’s eight-year term riled a lot of White’s; he was breaking up hallowed and fallowed ground.
In 2015, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, he suddenly became the “Great White Hope.” His slogan, “Make America Great Again (MAGA),” was his appeal to White folks who took it as “let’s get back to the familiar – to a president that looks like us.” Blacks took that as, “our best wasn’t good enough for you?” It was like the “tokenism” is over; let’s get back to what we know. I’m reminded of the “Touched By An Angel” episode where Monica’s assignment was to become a Black woman in a bigoted southern town. In one scene, as she was being chased by some prejudiced young White guys, she called out “make me White again!” and instantly she became White. When the guys caught up to her, they asked if she’d seen a N-word pass by. She said no, and they moved on. That’s a basic depiction of privilege and White supremacy – all about skin color.
The “wedding” that took place in January 2009, when President Obama was inaugurated, shook the lily-white status of White superiority. The dejection of the woman in the aforementioned song bubbled over into an expression of anguish, “it should’ve been me!” I often imagine when I listen to that song, what did the preacher do? The dejection of White supremacy erupted in the worse kind of way – the insurrection that took place on Capitol Hill, January 6, 2021, because the former president was still pouting “it should’ve been me!” What will the church do? So far, nothing!
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Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based contributing writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” and “Book To The Future” (Amazon); two insightful books that speak to our moral conscience in times like these. Email: [email protected]