Regina Bolton is angry.
“Today’s word is ‘insult.’ Uh! The special magic word is insult. Insulted, insulting… Insult.”
Regina grew up in one of the very few African American families in Carlsbad, California, a wealthy coastal town 30 minutes north of San Diego and an hour-and-a-half south of Los Angeles. A place that averages 263 sunny days a year, has high schoolers who almost always graduate, and lots of skateboarders and surfer dudes (“I’m sorry, you know,” she confesses, “surfers and skateboarders are kind of cute to me.”). Carlsbad is home to Legoland, the country’s first modern skateboard park (built in 1976, torn down 30 years later, and replaced with two others), and Rockstar San Diego, the company that created the core engine used by the Grand Theft Auto video game series.
There’s a part of me–and I know that this sounds really bad–[but] I’ll tell you the honest to God truth. I love my parents, but [they] did terribly in race relations. [They] raised me to believe that we’re all equal. They did. I get what they were trying to do. We lived in an all white community, very upscale. We lived near the police chief, the fire captain, and all that other stuff.
I get angry because I feel like I’ve had a great life. I had to have two professors, white professors [she laughs], educate me. They said, “No no, Regina. Just because you view the world that way, is not the experience of every other African American.”
(After the interview, she tells me that her only contact with African-Americans during her childhood was eight miles away in the more urban area of Oceanside, Sundays at church where her father served as deacon. She felt inferior among the other children, which she believes came from a mixture of unfamiliarity, and jealousy of her opportunities. She discovered later in life that some of those same children moved to Carlsbad to raise their own families.)
My introduction to Regina, along with thousands of others, was her drippingly sarcastic and incisive tirade in response to President Obama, who recently told African Americans that he would
“consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election,” Obama said with a stern look and booming passion. “You want to give me a good send-off, go vote.”
the strong implication being that the only votes that he would not find insulting, are the ones cast for Hillary Clinton. But since there’s no way Regina will ever vote for her (“I meant what I said. #HillNo. [It’s] in the fiber of my being”), she’s decided that President Obama will just have to be insulted.
You know what, President Obama? I’m so sorry you’re insulted. I’m so sorry you’re disappointed. But when we use that word insulted, let’s think about what the definition of that means–and Obama, you’re a very educated, smart man, so let’s just assume you know what that means.
Insult is something that the Bernie Sanders people felt–
As if suddenly hit with enormous insight, her expression turns to deep thought, her eyebrows scrunch, her tempo becomes deliberate and slow.
“–when they were turned away at the polls.”
Regina is also angry that, despite all of the killings of unarmed African American men by police during Obama’s tenure (whose stories overflow on her Facebook wall), despite hundreds of years of systemic racism, instead of signing meaningful legislation to protect these innocent men, our nation’s first African American president signs a law that further protects police officers. The ones with the guns.
She tells me:
There’s nobody else that ever, in my lifetime, is going to have the ability to address this in the way that he could have. I’m very disappointed. [People think I’m talking about legislation]. I’m not that stupid. I’m not that naïve. There’s no way that the Congress, the Senate, the House, they’re not going to let him get anything passed.
In the video, Regina continues:
But as the president, you have the ability with what we call on the streets, ‘pull’… That means you can invite all the folks that you feel that have an influence in this country–and I can name quite a few, even though I don’t have the education of the president…
You could’ve had Jane Elliot, who is a very famous professor and teacher on race. You could’ve had Dr. Ron Clark, another white person that’s very familiar with race and has a very famous school in Atlanta. He’s a public educator.
You could’ve brought in [white] officer Tommy Norman, who is an avid police officer [who teaches] other officers about community policing. When he goes into these neighborhoods, African Americans love him! (So that tells me that African Americans don’t have an issue with the race of cops. It’s the cops that are kind of killing us that I think we have a problem with.)
You could’ve had Dr. Cornel West, you could’ve had sociologist Michael Eric Dyson.
Back in the interview:
The fact [is that you] did none of that. You could’ve brought so many people in who are very well aware of this epidemic [yet] you sit there with these law enforcement officers and you sign [a law that protects them even more]? Are you kidding me?
[Even] Michelle Obama, to create this White House garden, and this initiative to get people to eat healthy. How about helping us live? How about doing something that helps us kind of live, to get to eat what we want?
How about doing something that targets the real issues? … Because at the end of the day that’s what Obama did. Played it safe. Played it nice… And I thought it was an insult to my intelligence for you to come at me and say to me that I need to do something because you care about your legacy. No no no! I care about African American and minority lives. That’s what I care about more than their legacies. Their legacies mean nothing to me.
In 2008, Regina enthusiastically voted for Obama, but was so disappointed in Obama’s priorities during his first year, “I became a Republican. Everyone in my family had a fit…I’m African American and it shocked quite a few of my friends to see that I had turned into a Republican.”
How did she get involved in politics?
I’ve never been that obsessed with a 74-year-old man. I swear… When Bernie came along…there were things that I noticed about him that made him different from any other person that I had seen in politics. No matter who he was talking to, his message would always be the same. It showed me that a lot of people will have a message, and the message is designed for whoever the audience is… Bernie was not like that. His message was the same…
I kept hearing that “he couldn’t pull the African American vote.” I got offended [laughs] because, first of all, nobody speaks for me. Number one. Number two, I don’t know why any African American could not relate to someone who was so involved. I mean he was chained to a black woman.
She says in a deliberately urban dialect, “Ah own no [I don’t know] how much more closer he gone get.”
He got involved. While ‘ol girl over here was being the Goldwater girl, actually wanted to keep segregation alive and roaring. Here Bernie was on the front line when no one was even looking at him… That’s who he is… I’m tired of hearing that African Americans won’t vote for him, because I am an African American woman that will.
And not only will I vote for him, I will get out there and I will be a voice for him. And I will educate and inform people about him… So I got involved. I volunteered. I got to run a volunteer office down in Los Angeles. [I collaborated with community colleges.] I did voter registration. I even worked an election poll on the primary day… I did this and I was able first hand to see a lot of the tomfoolery going on during the primaries…
Right now, I’m looking in my car and I have a Bernie poster still. I haven’t let it go, you know?
Did Regina consciously make a decision to change her personality in any way, when she realized that there was more to the world than her white privileged upbringing? Did she choose to become or behave “more black”?
Yes. I had to. I mean, I grew up listening to INXS, Culture Club, Depeche Mode. Like, are you kidding me? Do you think I’m gonna walk around other African Americans in groups, and walk like that? “You listen to Wham!?” Oh my God, are you serious? So yeah… I felt like I needed to be around more African Americans. Because I felt like I was going to go in a direction where I was not [going to know] any African Americans…
[Race] is not something that I talk about a lot. It’s not something that I try to carry but I can’t help it. It’s kind of salient. But in my day-to-day life…I’m just me… When I was in high school I would always wonder what would it be like to have an African American teacher? … Because everybody around me didn’t look like me. That’s why so many [people] remember me, because I was the only black girl at the school. [Laughs] … When I realized the world is not like that, I wanted to understand every sense of everything.
(She also lived in a Mexican neighborhood for three years and speaks fluent Spanish.)
I so badly want Regina to run for office. Or more precisely, to do something, anything to help her community on a grander scale.
She is an electric personality who clearly has the confidence, intelligence and insight to stand up to the most seasoned politician. What’s unique is how very different she is from those standard, polished, “properly dressed” politicians. What’s exciting, is just how uncomfortable she and her truth, with its silver braids, purple lipstick, long fingernails, and Z-snaps, will make a political establishment who would do well with some discomfort.
Regina Bolton represents a community that has been treated poorly for centuries and she has earned the right to be an Angry Black Woman. The African American community deserves to be represented by people like her. Regina’s truth reflects her world, and it’s about time we inject some of that reality into our government.
I’m not a squeaky clean individual. I’m not a goody two shoes or anything [but] it makes me a real person. That’s what it does… I’m not ashamed of things that I’ve done. I’ve made mistakes like other people have… [T]here’s nothing that anybody could say to me that would make me crumple and break… I was the debate captain. I’m very very good at this. Let’s go. If you think I’m thin skinned and I don’t have a backbone, I’m gonna take you for a ride. So let’s go.
[I] definitely would love to represent people and be a voice for minorities and African Americans, absolutely. Absolutely.
(I’ve already nominated Regina to Brand New Congress. You can, too .)