Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Are We Still A Nation Of Racists?

It would have been naive to think Barack Obama would not have had to make the speech he made today. Or one similar to it. No matter how much we may think he can transcend his racial heritage; we have shown that as a country we cannot.

He spoke eloquently about the deep divides that exist. Still exist. How we can remain mired in them or move beyond. Yet it is not just a Black/White issue. It is a White/Hispanic issue; it is a Black/Hispanic issue; in some cities it's a Korean/Hispanic/Black issue. No matter where in the country one resides there remains an under currant of racism. I can remember years ago hearing my mother-in-law deliver a diatribe on Blacks. I was stunned. She lived the majority of her life in Montana. She was a well educated and accomplished woman. There were few Blacks living in the state and at the time, none in her town. Where did that come from?

I find it one of the great mysteries confronting our society. If someone looks different, speaks differently, dresses differently they are somehow suspect. Why is that? Are we so uncomfortable outside our personal comfort zone that we eye anyone who differs as a threat?

Remember these lyrics from South Pacific?

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught.

I find myself wondering if this is the way it happens or if it's so ingrained in our psyche that it's now an inherent part of our nature. Is this why we seem so intent on imposing our way of life, our way of governing, our culture on others who differ in each of those areas to the extreme?

Here we are, at one time the greatest nation in the world because of what we stood for. Here we have a man running for President who personifies that, personifies the American dream. If we are to regain our stature in the world it seems starting at home with some deep introspection about ourselves and our attitudes about our own are in order.

We have a choice. We can choose a brave new world or we can stay slumped in the comfort zone of business as usual.


The New Arch Druid's take on the news said...

Quite frankly, I saw no reason for Senator Obama to even have to make that speech. Yeah, as CK (Casey) noted on A Matter of Opinion that Obama at least went to the church where Pastor Wright presided and counted on the fellow as his spiritual mentor.

I have yet to see any white candidates have to make speeches to disassociate themselves from extremists at the pulpits, extremists who come to their rallies, extremists who go to the polls. That is because they want their votes. For Barack Obama to have to make such a speech and the media pundits inclusive of Gloria Borgier (sic)to demand it of him, says a great deal about the racial divide all right. That Obama account for his minister but GW doesn't have to account for Rev. Falwell.

Anonymous said...

Great Article. I don't have the answer either as to why people in this country act the way they do.

I was rasied in a VERY racist family. My dad's credo was "If You Ain't White, You aint right". Imagine his shock when I showed up from college with an asian wife.

Thankfully, I was able to open his mind enough that my wife was accepted by him, on the other hand, my mom divorced herself from me and my family. Been 25 years since we last spoke. I figure she lost out on a wonderful daughter and two beautiful grand children.

The point I'm trying to make is that people need to put aside their fears and quit judging people based on appearance or perception and get to know them first. I guess that's to much to ask for.

Dogwalkmusings said...

Arch Druid, Romney had to explain his religion, to no avail, and McCain had to disavow Hagee.

Anonymous, your point is well taken and I certainly hope we are reaching the point where it is not too much to ask for!

JeanieSpokane said...

Excellent article and very thought-provoking. We are what our parents teach us whose parents taught them, on back through time. Prejudice and racism is all "carefully taught" sad to say. In my family, it stopped with my parents, thank God. But world wide it is a huge problem and especially in the United States. "United" - is that becoming an oxymoron to describe our nation?

Word Tosser said...

Humans seem to deal with it this way.
Fear... anything that is different or they don't understand, they fear it... and the next step is to hate it... then the next step is to destroy it.
We keep hoping that the chain will break and things will change...but the more things change, the more things are the same.

Anonymous said...

Yes, he did have to make that speech. And It was a powerful speech, one that will remain in history. That being said, I find it hard to believe that his pastor has not given those revolting sermons in the past 20 years of Obamas membership. I think we forget here, that racism is no less acceptable when it comes from a black man, directed toward whites. What that pastor spewed was as appalling and unacceptable as anything from the KKK (for instance). Here is a supposedly Christian clergyman who was doing no less that mouthing sedition. And to give him a pass is unacceptable.

The introspection you speak of is incumbant in all men of all races and beliefs.

Bill Cosby preaches to the black community that the world doesn't owe them a living. That it is their responsibility to get out and better their lives...starting with an education. That is the path to equality.

Camellia Underhill

Anonymous said...

Dear Dogwalker, Thank you for these wonderful musings. Yes, we are "carefully taught" and we are taught that we are the greatest country in the world, and we are not racist, and that everyone who criticizes the U.S. is wrong or unpatriotic. Not. Why can't we be satisfied to love our good and developing country, and to own our racist history and institutions and to relax on this patriotic jargon. Isn't the test that I thoughtfully vote, and run for office, and expose corruption and volunteer at the local school, and pay my taxes, etc.? Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Let me clairify (my head is totally fugged up). These sermons apparently have been going on for some years. As a presidential hopeful, Obama should have distanced himself long ago. He had to know (no matter what the reason for said sermon) that politically they would return to bite him on the nose. And they have. And his situation had to consider the greater good as opposed to loyalty to one man. We have all heard sermons in church that we do not agree with. I myself got up and walked out during comments by my priest defending Bill Clinton when the Lewinsky debacle broke. But we are not all running for President. And, again on a personal level, the first time I heard such rhetoric from my clergyman, I would have changed churches (not religion).

We cannot change our history. We cannot blame our history for our present day failings. What was, was. And what is to come, will be.

Camellia Underhill

Dogwalkmusings said...

Jeaniespokane, my greatest fear is that the fear that has become so ingrained in us by this war administration will regenerate the race issue. I hope I am wrong. Maybe the "first lady experience papers" will swing the pendulum one more time.