Monday, January 19, 2009

The Presidential Race

I'm going to apologize ahead of time if this rant seems random - my thoughts are scattered, but I feel I need to get some of them down.

I also apologize if anything I say gets misconstrued.  Talking about race is always a dangerous subject, so let me say first and foremost that I am not at all racist and nothing that I say should be interpreted as such.  If it seems like I am saying something that would belittle anybody else because of their race, then please accept it as a poor communication because I do not harbor such feelings.  That said, here are my thoughts:

Martin Luther King day and the inauguration of our countries first minority president fall very nicely together.  As any regular reader of my blog is aware, I am fairly conservative and I have great reservations about President-elect Obama's positions and viewpoints.  I didn't vote for him, and given the chance, I'd go and not vote for him again.,0.jpgWhen it came time to select my President, skin color is not a part of the equation.  I live and work around blacks and whites and gays and straights and Latinos and Asians and men and women, and I love them all.  I try very hard not to stereotype anybody but instead to take them one at a time and give them the benefit of the doubt while I get to know them.  I think that a little bit of bias is built in to the human condition, but for the most part it is easy to overcome.  Certainly anybody who refuses to vote for somebody for political office, or who refuses to support them once elected based on race is somebody who needs to take a deep, long look into their conscience.

Senator Obama said many many times on the campaign trail that he was trying to stay away from race as an issue in the campaign, and despite a few obvious slip ups ("I may look different than the presidents on our dollar bills...") it seems like he did so (of course, there is no way to know how much he had his hand in the mountains of race baiting that happened all around him, but I'll take him at his word here).

But when you have the first seriously contending African American (yes, Nurse K, I know he is actually bi-racial, but I'm simplifying) running for president, it is not possible to escape the race issue.

On this day that we celebrate Martin Luther King's dream of a nation where we will not be judged by the color of our skin but by the content of our character, I stand with great pride about how far we have come as a nation, where Colin Powel and Condeleeza Rice and Tiger Woods and Denzel Washington and so many others have paved the way for the great American dream to be open for all.  And yet, I stand with great fear for the future of race relations in our country when I watch television stations like BET further stereotypes of unlearned, immoral, womanizing criminals being the standard for blacks to look to, or when I see so-called leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who jump on any chance to sensationalize and alienate and turn any situation into an us vs them, and in so doing keep race relations held back.  I feel great anxiety about where we are headed when I see the videos of Reverend Wright and those like him who would perpetuate the victim mentality, and rally the troops for a false war.

My nominee for hero of the black cause so far this century is Bill Cosby.  He has not been afraid to deal the hard love that needs to be dealt.  So much of cleaning up the problems that persist in black communities is to take personal responsibility for becoming a contributing and successful member of society.  These are principles that apply to every group of people, be they black or white, religious or atheist, nurse or doctor: learn everything you can, respect those around you, live morally, work hard, and eschew the title of victim.  What made this nation great to begin with was the mentality to stand up and do what is right and when life gives you a lemon, go find some sugar, butter, flour, and eggs, and make really good lemon bars.

That is why I respect Obama and have hope for what his Presidency can mean to race relations.  At least to this point, he has not tried to sensationalize race.  He has shown that a black man can be true to himself and be educated, well-spoken, and successful.  There is no need to try to be like P-diddy or Tupac in order to be true to your race.  We need to celebrate that.  We need to celebrate when a Tiger Woods can come along and make a big name for himself in a white-dominated sport.  We need to cheer when Condeleeza Rice can take on one of the most important jobs in the land and carry out the task with dignity and honor (partisanship aside).  I think having such a role model (partisanship aside) as Barack Obama in the most visible position in the entire world can take race relations forward by leaps and bounds.

And yet I'm scared.  I'm scared because all around in the background we have seen so much negative race baiting.  If we are to truly move forward in this country, then we need to put the charges of racism aside and work together.  It is an unfortunate reality that there are some people who would still judge a man based solely on the color of his skin and make assumptions and treat him as lesser.  That said, the overwhelmingly vast majority of people in this country are ready to accept that there is nothing about being black that makes a person less capable than a counterpart of any other race.

So in some roundabout way, this kind of gets me to the point that started this whole post in the first place: We will go backwards precipitously in this country if we continue to allow race to be used as a weapon.  I have seen throughout the campaign as charges of racism were leveled every time a major criticism of Obama was layed out.  This has to stop.  Period.  Vigorous debate is a fundamental part of the foundation of this country.  Principles such as freedom of the press and the first amendment are so important to us because it allows us to embrace conflicting viewpoints.  This is how we come together to share our differences and in so doing move toward common ground.  When this kind of free intercourse (stop giggling) of communication is allowed to thrive, then we thrive.  When it is stifled by wild acusations of racism, not only do we lose out on the discourse that could have been, but we devalue the true conflicts - the ones that actually have significance and impact.  Building straw men out of race and then tearing them down is a danger that should not be underestimated or pushed aside.  Cutting off debate with charges of racism halts the free distribution of ideas, and we are a nation powered by ideas.

Barack Obama is not the promised Messiah, but perhaps he can be, by nature of his office, the bridge that the civil rights movement needs to cross the trials that it faces.

Enjoy the historic day tomorrow as we see a symbolic step forward in equality for our nation and a giant leap toward Dr. King's dream.  Then put race away on the shelf and move forward doing your part and your duty and continuing the honest and free debate that helps make this the greatest nation on earth.


E.J. said...

I think your post did make a lot of sense. I'm learning that I don't need to get every single argument laid out perfectly for each blog post. It's amazing what comes out when we just sit down and start typing.

Mary said...

very well said!!

Gina said...

An excellent post! I agree wholeheartedly...there are no more excuses for anyone to hide behind their race as the reason why they can't achieve success.

I didn't vote for President Obama, but I wish him the best. I will pray for him and his family. It is at this time, more than ever, that our president needs the help and guidance of the Lord to preserve this nation.

Unknown said...

"That said, the overwhelmingly vast majority of people in this country are ready to accept that there is nothing about being black that makes a person less capable than a counterpart of any other race." what are your references for this comment. You need to read a few studies on unspoken assumptions of race.