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The new reality: making nothing out of something


The events of the day have caused us to confuse what is real and what is important. It seems some people frame what’s important to them and forget what’s important to us all. There are things going on in our community that are significant and the people that say they speak for us or represent us, don’t seem to think so … or don’t seem to care.

The absence of conscience is a reality that Black people have had to deal with the past couple decades. Yeah, you will always have those in our nation, and in our communities that make more of things than they should, or make more of something than is necessary. We call that making that “something out of nothing.” Only we say, “nuthin.”

Today, however, it seems that many are quick to take really significant issues, or really important events, taking place in our society and seek to deflect the significance of those issues or events.

We live in a new culture where people now will take something and say “it’s nothing.”

What’s important is to not lose sight of what’s important. What’s significant in the context of history can’t be minimalized. Yet, that’s what some try to do. That’s our new culture of making nothing out of something.

Several events have occurred in the past two weeks that make this point. Of course, most recently was the suspension of the Herman Cain campaign for the Republican nomination for president of the United States. The “Cain Train” didn’t just come to a sudden stop. It was derailed by a string of significant events that cast him in a different light. As much as Cain tried to represent that the allegations were about nothing, they were really about something in terms of what the people want to see in the politics of its president versus the politics of a private citizen.

Still, Cain said it was nothing, and the public stayed with him as long as they could. Then the “real” girlfriend came out and his long-term 13-year relationship tied to her made this “nothing” into something in terms of what the party of “family values” was prepared to deal with. And Cain was done.

Last week, several cities, including Los Angeles, attempted to shut down the mass protest “occupation” movement. The reasons were very shallow. Not because the people were breaking law. In fact, it was actually the other way around: the law is breaking the people by allowing the corporate greed movement to continue. Many people have been pushed out of their jobs and homes. Where else do they have to go but to the feet of the government that is supposed to protect them?

This significant statement the American people are making is not to be ignored, as much as local government is trying to dismiss them. Killing the grass at City Hall became more important than killing the American Dream. Something is happening in America that Congress, state and local government want to say is much ado about nothing. How long does our government think it can make nothing out of something?

It even seems some in our community have found convenient ways to “flip the script.” Things, events, times that are significant in the historical construct of Black people, are being easily dismissed. In Los Angeles, the city witnessed the swearing in of its first African American City Council president–a significant achievement when you understand how city government works.

Everybody in the city acknowledged that this was a big deal. The council chambers were packed to support this achievement. All the council members were there, except the other two African American council members, who didn’t see this historical event as significant enough to attend.

Oh, they had their reasons. One had a “calendared” appointment that, of course, she couldn’t change. The other reverted to his old LAPD tactics and called in with “the blue flu,” meaning he was too “conveniently sick” to make a political statement as police do when you take a position against the department unpopular within the rank and file.

When council members have conflicts or are “sick” they just don’t come. And how many times do we see committed elected officials get out of their sickbeds for significant events, like key votes and key speeches. The most prominent of which was Arizona House member Gabby Giffords, who got up out of her recovery bed to attend the debt-ceiling vote last summer. If she could get up and make a vote, recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, the councilman could have gotten up to celebrate a colleague. But that’s our resident narcissist. Nobody and nothing is more important to him than him. It showed he hasn’t learned anything since last May.

The Los Angeles taxpayer would be astonished by the number of unexcused absences council members have, but these two small-minded councilpersons wanted to send a message and get some press out of it. And they did. The message was that this event that was something to everybody else was nothing to them. They wanted to make nothing out of something. It’s the new American way, a new trait in the wayward culture.

Americans still make something out of nothing from time to time, but more frequently we are seeing more and more people try to make nothing out of something.

And that’s troubling.

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of the upcoming book, “Real Eyez: Race, Reality and Politics in 21st Century Popular Culture.” He can be reached at or on Twitter at @dranthonysamad.

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