Serve with integrity. Care about those you serve. Share the love in your heart & soul.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

#677 Racism: Some Manifestations

Events have been taking place during the past year or so that have given me pause. The euphoria in many camps over the election of the first Black President and Commander-in-Chief cooled quickly. There are those who will condemn him for promising too much, for not doing enough, for failing his country, for a myriad of issues. That is not too unusual. After every election when a new president is elected there is the honeymoon period. Is it just me or did the honeymoon period for our current president seem quite short

It is also a part of the job to inherit the good and bad policies and circumstances from the previous administration. It is also a part of the game to blame them for the failures and take credit for the successes. So far it is politics as usual.

There seems to be a possibility that institutionalized racism is rearing its head these days. Before you begin to heap praise or scorn, let me share some thoughts.

Racism can be viewed from a couple of perspectives: intellectual and visceral.

Intellectually it seems easy to understand the meaning and outcomes of racism and other biases. A cogent argument is easily understood and easily can gain agreement. (Facts need to be carefully vetted to insure accuracy.) There are probably very few people who will intellectually discount a factual presentation. We need only look at the outward progress of race relations in the US over the past 60+ years.

Viscerally it is a different story. Our minds may tell us one thing but our guts tell us something else. For evidence we need only look carefully at our own actions and responses when confronted by situations that involve others who are visibly different from us. What are some of those responses? Are they fear? Anger? Retribution for real or imagined transgressions? Are they found in fact, supposition or supposition posing as fact?

It is natural to protect oneself, one's family, one’s group, one's community. More careful consideration need be given at this point. We learn this all through our formative years. The lessons come through words and deeds. Intellectually we learn that racism is not appropriate. It is the deeds that come from the visceral that cause the difficulty. One may agree that racism is wrong, but even the most “innocent” behaviors will give away the underlying fear – loss of power.

Whenever there is a real or imagined threat to one's community there is the natural inclination to be protective. After all, we can’t just let them take away our position in the overall group. This is quite evident now. Since the beginning of our country it has been ruled by white men. It has only been in the last 20+ years that some progress has been made in enfranchising other groups. I suspect that the current arguments at the highest political levels have as much to do about race as they do about fiscal responsibility.

It is appropriate to question a leader’s abilities. However, it is easier to use one’s concerns about presidential leadership to camouflage one’s visceral response to racial differences.

If you want to get an idea of how bad racial discrimination was at one time, view the film The Great Debaters. I grew up during much of the time that film portrays. During that time I lived in a variety of cities in the south. It always seemed strange to have “colored only” facilities.

The thrust of this lengthy, sophomoric diatribe is to ask that you at least consider that racism might be a major part of the response to our President.

Thank you.

(The ideas and statements presented here are the authors. One need not blindly accept them. They are presented as one man's view of the topic. The view comes from observing, studying, and participating in life for the past 60+ years.)



Sandee said...

No it's not race that makes me not like our current president. It's clearly his policies that I don't like. He's way too left for my liking. Plain and simple. Too many are trying to make it a race issue though. It's not working.

Have a terrific day. :)

Jack K. said...

Sandee, thanks for your comments. I had forgotten to add the link that is now present.

Karen said...

Being an ardent supporter of President Obama from day one, the only thing I'm disappointed about him is the fact that he's not left-leaning enough for me. That said, the race issue is alive and thriving, especially with the tea-baggers.

Great write-up, Jack.

The Real Mother Hen said...

Regardless of factors, being President of the United States is the worst job on earth. No matter what you do, half of the country simply disagrees with you. Americans believe that this type of disagreement is healthy, you know, everyone has a say, but no "real" decision can be made, like almost every bills passed is a water-down version or badly compromised. It does only harm actually. While we fight, other countries move forward quietly. Remember not long ago we woke up one day to see India and China had risen, out of the blue? That was just the beginning, one day we will see a "third world" country like say Colombia overtaking us. Wait, hold on a second, Colombia has taken us in terms of healthcare (they rank 22nd in the world, we rank 37th). OUCH!

Never mind, let's continue to fight among ourselves!!!

Skunkfeathers said...

Thought provoking, as I would expect of you, even when I don't agree with all you say here.

I am many things, including old enough to remember court-ordered forced-bussing in my youth. I didn't grow up in the South, where "separate but equal" was more noticeable. I grew up in the Midwest, son of a police officer and ex-Marine who, for whatever reasons, hated and distrusted blacks, period.

In my formative years, I had few experiences with blacks, but for the most part, those I had showed me they were as regular a folk as I was (and left me wondering where my father's hatred came from, a question never answered). What I knew of Martin Luther King, Jr., was simply his "judge a person not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character" statement, and it made perfectly good sense to me. Sense enough that I thought I was seeing society disintegrate in my face, as an 11 year old in the tumultuous year of 1968.

As for today...I didn't vote for our current president. I don't tend to vote for Democrats (while I am unaffiliated since 1999, my family is five generations Republican). I heard tell from pundits that if I didn't vote for Obama, I was racist. And that, right there, was a losing proposition for convincing me this man had any ideas that were better for the nation. That was the seed for diminishing him and his message.

I don't support him today, because of his ideas; his skin color is, to MLK's credit, as thoroughly immaterial as can be. It's some of his policies I abhor (just as a few that the previous president pursued, I abhorred).

Of course, my disapproval of the president's health care plan he's trying to jam through Congress makes me, in some liberal eyes, racist.

Fine. But sometimes, I wonder just where the true racists are: sure seems like a lot of folks on the Left think minorities can't make it without government help. And that, in my eyes, is demeaning to any hardworking minority who believes in the American Dream. And a helluva lot of them do, and bust their butts to achieve it, without the kind of help liberals insist they need to make it.

I contend that makes this liberal view of minorities needing help to make it, racist.

So...I'm a racist. Liberals are racist. And we have accomplished what by this argument?

How's about we treat everyone exactly as God intended: on their merits and character, rather than on their skin color, gender, political affiliation, or some silly, stupid "victim group"?

Yeah, I know...silly me. But that's my two cents worth. And agree or not, I know Jack's a rational, good-hearted, fair-minded fella. One thing the two of us can agree on ;)

Skunkfeathers said...

PS: I'm a teabagger, too, and know some black teabaggers..shame on some of us, I reckon ;)

Jack K. said...

Skunkman, the sad part of the story is that we are all racist from the visceral perspective. The secret to the dilemma is to recognize that and do something about it.

I have discussed this issue with my real estate classes when we discuss fair housing laws.

We acknowledged that I had a different relationship with each member of the class. This is no different then when we deal with the public. The secret is to own up to that phenomenon and be sure that we provide the same level of service to all whom we meet. We don't always have to like them, but that choice should be based upon their actions and not things that are all but impossible to change.

In the end things will get better if we all...

Serve with integrity, care about those we serve and share the love in our heart and soul.

Sarah Sofia Ganborg said...

Jack, this is perhaps the best post you've ever written, because it's so spot on!

I like the stuff in small print in the beginning, because that is just exactly what I have been telling people when they got so excited after the election - I told them: "remember to stand by him, after the honeymoon period!" because I know this was gonna happen!

Now I since then also found out that there are a couple of things about him which aren't quite as clean as one might think... but still he ran for office - how could it ever be different?! this is not a perfect world and most of the time you just have to chose the lesser of two evils!

I have no problem with black people, I more think that's a typical American issue. I think black is beautiful and I/we are curious about other races. We had a class mate at school who was from Ghana and she was as black as you can be, even hear eyes were black. Can you imagine that? the biology teacher said, it wasn't possible, but she insisted: "Yes, my eyes are black, I'm not talking about the iris!" so we all stood around her, looking into her eyes and she was right! Totally ironically that was the norm in the sixties in Western Germany, foreigners and different races were very welcome - because they such a bad conscience re what they had done to the Jews!!! very ironic, isn't it?!

but as for racism - well, I guess, I have it on a more cultural level. I really dislike certain types of suppression in certain cultures and it makes me bad how they suppress their own people so in this way you could say that this is a racistic aspect in me, I would f.ex. come up with a remark like "See what the Japs have done to the Chinese! They really deserved Hiroshima!" and that sort of thing... and I could never even imagine being with a German male, that's how condemned I think this species is... So there you have the proof, I can also be rather "not so nice"!
Still if anyone would approach me from those countries/societies I would give everybody a chance who comes in good will, I would just never put myself into a situation where I could become affected by their cultural group-agreement-cruelty! And that's what I truly hate! Not the people, not their bodies, but the suppression that has being "planted" into them!

Sarah Sofia Ganborg said...

here comes the rest:
Re racism, I also have to say, I live in a country where people do not always receive foreigners very well and I have been exposed to it a lot. I've almost lived here for 3 decades now and Danes will not receive foreigners into their hearts at all, actually not even their own people! They truly are still Vikings - hard and cold blooded. On the other hand they do give you room to be there, next to them. They don't bother you.
And you don't have conditions here, like you have in the States. Blacks and Whites separated - completely unthinkable! I mean most Danish parents are willing to adopt children from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds! They really don't care at all if the child is black, red, brown or yellow! But the situation is so very different in the States! Like we had invited my husband's (American)boss to our home. She was very happy to come, but before she accepted, she quietly took my husband to one side and said: "You do know, my husband is afro-american?"! She had actually really expected that to be relevant!!!
Or a friend of mine complained that everybody stared at her. She said: "You see, everybody stares at me, because I'm black! In the States, the lowest thing you can be is a black female..." And I said to her: "Listen stupid, people are staring at you because you're so incredible beautiful, not because they think you're worth less! It's your beautiful skin, that people can't take their eyes of, because it looks so harmonious and pretty! I also stared at you the first time I saw you, but it's not because we don't like you, it's because you look so amazing!" And that's typical then, people get all introverted because they have been treated badly before! Even if it doesn't happen anymore in the present. So I really hope that in the future people will care more about the personality and most of all the actions of the individual and not about background and race!

Real mother hen:
Loved your comment!!! You couldn't be more right!!!

Sarah Sofia Ganborg said...

meant to say in the first post:
It makes me MAD how they suppress their own people.
Accidently used the word "bad"...

Merle said...

Dear Jack ~~ Great thoughtful post my friend. Got some good comments too.
Thanks for your comments, I was lucky in
that storm and I am glad you liked the poem about friends walking beside you.
Even from half way around the world.
Take care, my friend. Regards, Merle.

Polly said...

Hi Jack. Just catching up since I have not visited bloggerland for quite some time...and scrolled down your many tags to find what would interest me the most as you are so prolific a writer.

I have to agree with Karen's comment on this one.
I am impressed and amazed that right winger rednecks read your stuff and comment.
Being a socialist from way back I am always bemused by the fear that evokes in Americans.

Don't be afraid get reading. YOu may find that paying taxes is like paying a tithe. It helps the poor and those who have it hard.

Thanks for this post Jack.
It will always be an important subject for as long as there are those who see 'difference' and not 'humanity'.

Cheers x