Friday, March 21, 2008

The Race Toward a Dialogue About Race

I'm sitting here listening to the YouTube replay of Barak Obama's speech on race. Finally, an honest, reasonable dialogue about race may be able to come out of the private kitchens and the occasional classroom and be aired in the public square.

I wrote in my journal a couple of years ago that I am starved for an honest, open discussion about race, not just among my liberal mostly white friends, but openly, at work, on the street, in politics. I think Obama has begun that discussion in the political arena.

I think that when Geraldine Ferraro made her comment about Obama being where he is because he is black, she may have been trying to make a clumsy attempt to start that dialogue, but she said it out of ignorance of the struggles of being black in America today. She made the mistake of buying into the anti-affirmative action faction that seems to think that the only value that a black person or a woman can bring to the table is in their status as a "token" in whatever circle of power that they belong. I don't believe that she made her comment out of hatred, just out of her blindness of the value of Obama as an individual, regardless of race. When you think about it, that is pretty sad, because that leads me to think that the only value she sees in herself is that she was the token woman on a past presidential ticket, almost like she didn't count, only her gender did- as a trick to try to win the female vote back in the day. That saddens me. It also concerns me that she was working on the campaign of another strong, capable woman, Hillary Clinton. Does that mean that she is only supporting Clinton on the basis of the principle of her being a (token) woman? I have to wonder if Ferraro believes in the possibility of either of these two strong people to ever run the White House and promote change for the better.

After all, "tokens" aren't the real thing, they are only fake quarters that you put in the slot machine and you lose over and over and over again.

No matter who you decide to support, do so proudly and with confidence that your candidate is the right person for the job, not just because they fill some quota...black man (check)....white woman (check)...white man (check).


As a Democrat in Michigan, I know that my vote doesn't count in this primary election. (Did I mention that I didn't vote in our primary because I felt that I had been cheated of casting a real vote here, since most of my options had been removed from the ballot?) However, for what it is worth, I believe that I have made my choice today. Just a couple of minutes ago as I was listening to Obama's speech.

I choose Obama.

Whether he gets the presidency or not, whether he even gets the nomination or not, I believe that his speech is a historic, groundbreaking moment in our history.

This is a time when many white people don't believe that racism exists, or that they reap no personal benefits from our hisory of slavery, yet our whole economic system originated with the buying and selling of dark human flesh. This is a time when young people take it for granted that their schools are integrated, yet if they look around their classrooms, the majority of the students share their same skin color and that, not surprisingly, if they are brown, their textbooks are older, their computers are slower and their teachers are inexperienced and if they are white, likely they have experienced educators and full classroom sets of needed books. This is a time when Michigan's voters (probably mostly white for that election) decided to abolish any and all traces of affirmative action for women and girls of all colors and for men of color because they were afraid that the job at McDonald's that they have been aspiring to has been taken by someone with brown skin and that someone with brown skin or no penis may be sitting in their college math class next to their blond blue-eyed son. This is a time when many anti-racist white people make the mistake of feeling guilty for being born with white skin. This is a time when "African American History" is somehow segregated in classrooms from "American History", when really, they are and should be taught as one and the same. (Yes, I have heard educated folk say that white people should not be hosting television programs which celebrate black history. You will have to leave a comment if you want to hear more about that rant.) This is a time that desperately needs an honest dialogue about race, because most of us (meaning white people) believe that the civil rights movement is over. That dialogue can now begin.

I invite you to check out Barak Obama's speech (you can listen or get it in written form, I'm doing both) and TALK ABOUT IT. Honestly.

Here is the web address where I found it: http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/hisownwords

In the sidebar, I am post an e-mail that I got from my dad a few days before the Patomic Primaries. He lives in Baltimore and as an almost 80 (yes, that is this year) year old white man, his insights are fresh on the political race (pun intended). He sent the e-mail to all of his grandchildren, me and I'm not sure who all else. Hope you enjoy it and take it to heart.

10 comments:

  1. Aimee, you want comments! Isn't your decision to vote for Obama based on a speech he gave about race just as shallow as a woman voting for Hillary because she is a woman. You want to talk openly about race, great! Over the years, there have been multiple opportunities in this community to do just that. Many that have not gone well, mostly because I think many people are confused about what they are trying to accomplish with these conversations, people come to these discussions from many different maturity and experiencial levels of dealing with the topic. As a white person, I agree, racism has gone no where. It definitely still exists, needs to be addressed in a gentle way as to not scare white people off, who have the privilege in the first place ... but to vote for a guy just because he made a speech about race! Do you honestly think that if a white candidate sat in a church with a preacher for years, who condemned and ridiculed people of color, and then while trying to run for a political office was called out on it, and they said well I don't agree with his comments, but we are still friends and he is like family to me, that that would fly!!! Hell NO ... all hell would break loose. They would be labeled a racist and in my mind would be a racist to have tolerated in any way shape or form that kind of speaking. If we are going to have open diagolues about race, then we need to have an open playing field that is equal for everyone to speak and to be judged on the same criteria in terms of their comments. It can't be a person of color making rude, obnoxious comments about white people being acceptable, and white people saying anything about people of color automatically be labled as racist and shunned. I have seen it happen over and over in this town. There is deep need for talks about race, in a respectful manner. But back to the issue of president. I won't vote for someone because they made a good speech about Race ... for gosh sakes, our economy is a mess, our country is at war, and it is getting worse again. Our own people are dying due to lack of health care. Yes, let's talk about Race, but not necessarily vote for him for president for that reason, he made a good speech. Start a discussion group. But vote for someone who can turn this country around. We are in deep shit. You are not talking to yourself.....!!!!!!!!!!

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  2. I appreciate your comments. This is exactly the kind of dialogue that I think is needed, not just here in Flint, but across our nation.

    You are absolutely right, our country is in deep shit. On those issues you mentioned, I have not seen a significant difference between Barak and Hillary. Neither one is advocating for a Universal Healthcare plan as is needed, but they are both proposing improvements to our current system. Both have said that they want out of Iraq, although I'm not quite sure of the details of what they are each proposing. The economy sucks. I'll say it again...the economy sucks. I have no idea what either of them are proposing to fix it. This incentive package that we are all supposed to get just for filing our taxes this year, will barely scratch the surface. I already have it spent to pay down credit cards with way too high of interest rates. My own fault. Did I mention that the economy sucks? However, I have job security because I work with juvinile offenders within a child welfare system that is broken and a criminal justice system that is criminal and not just. I also have no idea how they each plan (if they plan) to fix those things. I'm also unsure about how, exactly, they will improve schools and increase school funding so that maybe some of the kids that I meet are more likely to get excited about escaping into literature than escaping into ludes or cocaine or alcohol or ...

    There is so much about our country that needs fixing. My voice in the selection of the democratic nominee, for example. But since I live in Michigan, my voice and my vote (or not) are irrelevant.

    No matter who is nominated for the Democratic ticket, I will vote for them!!!! As I said before, both candidates are remarkable and have the possibility of making the world better through their presidancy.

    However, I favor Obama because I have heard Clinton qualify her call for change to imply that qualitative change is impossible within our present political system. I need someone more optimistic, or perhaps even naive about the so-called impossibility of changing the system.

    By the way, if you click on the link to the right, you can hear one of Rev. Wright's so-called racist speeches, where he calls on our government right after 9/11, not to jump into a reaction of violence and terror, but instead, to take time to look within ourselves as individuals and as a country to find a better, more peaceful response. Listen to it. Nothing anti-white about it.

    Also, after reading your comment, I found an interview with Geraldine Ferraro that was done after the so-called race comment. I stand corrected. I do stand by my statement of feeling that she was no racist, but when I heard her explaination, I (and, I think the media and most listening to that media) had it wrong. She wasn't saying it out of ignorance, but in a spirit of solidarity. Watch the video. Interesting.

    I still am crossing my fingers for Obama.

    About the race thing....I'm not supporting Obama just because he is black. Nor am I supporting him because he preached great rhetoric about the racial divide in this country. I am supporting him because I believe that in making that speech, he spoke out honestly about something that he really believes in. He didn't just bury his head in the sand or make excuses or empty promises not to respect his mentor any more. He responded honestly to some dishonest criticism. I believe that the moment that he decided to speak out, he made a decision to follow his heart and not the pollsters predictions. I believe that in making that speech, he showed bravery beyond what most politicians are capable of. I believe that through this speech, he indirectly challenged ALL Americans, regardless of color, to look honestly at their fears and anger, acknowlege them and move beyond them to a place of healing. I hope Obama wins the nomination because he was honest enough to step up and be open about who he is and the difficulties that this nation needs to face together.


    I still am crossing my fingers for Obama.

    Did I mention that our electoral system also needs to be fixed? Not just hanging chads and malfunctioning machines and racist exclusion at the polls, but we need to eliminate the electoral college altogether!! In this day and age of computers, telephones and airline travel, we should each be able to speak and vote for ourselves without an intermediary. It's kind of like going to confession with a priest who can't hear, but automatically tells everyone to say three hail marys and call the doctor in the morning.

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