White Defenders


copyright © 2010 Forgiven.  The Disputed Truth

Originally Published on Sunday, January 10, 2010

In a private conversation reported in a new book, Reid described Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign as a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

I have to be honest that I am always a bit skeptical when white folks feel compelled to step up and defend black folks from other white folks. I am even more cynical when it is white Republicans doing the defending. This would be the same Republican party who has since the 60’s run on the southern strategy, whose conventions look more like all-white country clubs, and who have from his election sought to de-legitimize this President. Now we are to believe that they are so concerned with the delicate psyche of African-Americans that Senator Reid’s remarks rises to the level of Trent Lott?

For those who don’t remember Trent Lott was the Republican majority leader who stated that the country would have been better off if unrepentant segregationist Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948.

For the sake of argument, let’s look at Senator Reid’s reported statement concerning then Senator Obama. He stated that he was a light-skinned black man which as far as I can tell would be a true statement. My guess is that Senator Reid was alluding to the fact that historically lighter skinned blacks have fared better in American society than darker skinned blacks so that would be a positive in his bid to become president. On the surface this would appear to be a callous statement however if we look at not only the history of blacks within the majority society but also within the black community the statement tends to stand on its own merits. Now does this excuse the fact that darker-skinned blacks tend to be discriminated more than light-skinned blacks? Of course not, but the truth is still the truth.

Let’s face it folks whites tend to be more comfortable with light-skinned blacks. If you were to poll blacks and say does the fact that President Obama is light-skinned does that diminish his status as an African-American I think the answer would be a resounding no based on the fact that he received almost 100% of the black vote.

The second part of Senator Reid’s remarks could be more problematic in the sense that he stated that Obama had no Negro dialect which could be offensive to some blacks. The question then becomes do blacks, as a group, speak differently from whites and can those differences be readily apparent to the listener? I think Senator Reid was stating that Barack Obama could choose to speak black or white depending on his audience. The problem here is that we are talking about politicians who often craft their message depending on their audience and for a politician to be able to speak to multiple groups is an asset. I think I remember during the campaign how Hillary and Bill changed dialects when they were speaking in black churches or to primarily black audiences. Does that make them racists? I think not, it makes them politicians.

As every successful black man knows who is not in the entertainment business or a professional athlete knows, we live in two different worlds we have to adept in the white world as well as the black world. I have to be able to speak to white businessmen as well as black community folks and they are not the same.

The biggest problem I have with this faux Republican outrage is that in order to determine Reid’s remarks one has to look at his intent. Was his intent to racially disparage Barack Obama? No, in fact in his mind he was giving a list of the positives for then candidate Obama. We must remember this was the beginning of a historical campaign and who amongst us did not consider these if not other positives and negatives of the candidates. The problem for Senator Reid is that his remarks were recorded. To me this just demonstrates the problem with the current Republican strategy and that is it shows their total lack of principles. When you attack everything you find yourself defending some former positions that you once opposed, by doing this you appear hypocritical at best and insane at worse. Republicans defending Medicare?

So what we have is Senator Reid stating that Barack Obama was a light-skinned black man who could speak to both black and white audiences. Yeah, that’s grounds for his immediate dismissal. Speaking as a black man I’m still missing the outrage no matter who had made the statement.

For Michael Steele to go on television and equate what Senator Reid reportedly said to what Trent Lott said is beyond me. Are we to believe that saying the country would be better off today if in 1948 an avowed racist had won the Presidential election is comparable to saying that Barack Obama was more electable because he was light-skinned and he spoke to both blacks and whites? I don’t think so. Have we become so racially sensitive that stating the obvious is now considered racist? The reason Mr. Steele will never be able to accomplish what he was elected to do which I think was to reach out to African-American voters is because in order to defend his task masters he losses any credibility with the very voters he is charged with attracting. Mr. Steele’s remarks may appeal to whites but if that is his core audience then the Republicans would have better served if they had elected another white man who would not have brought the baggage Mr. Steele has obviously brought. Do Republicans believe that blacks are that gullible? I hope not for their sakes.

“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”

~ Elbert Hubbard  

We Won! Guiltless? Affluent White Athletes Speak to America

First Look: Duke Rape Case (CBS News)

© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Intentionally, I have avoided the hype, the hypocrisy, and the hysteria surrounding the Duke Lacrosse players and the woman frequently described as a “stripper.” I did not wish to discuss my disgust for I feared my own rage.  Revenge, for me, is never sweet.  Racism, is a bitter pill.  However, the taste of it stays with me in every passing moment.  Finally, I can stay silent no more.  I must flush out what I believe is folly.  The “case is closed.”

Yesterday afternoon, I was in the television room for a moment.  I rarely spend time in that area of the house.  The set is turned on for white noise.  Nonetheless, in an instant I was mesmerized.  In a glorified press conference, accolades abound.  Justice was served.  I was stunned and sickened!  Regardless of a legally defined rape, a subtlety violent, destructive, and abusive action took place.  A horde of young men indulged in the titillating event.

Apparently, based on the outcome of the case and most of the discussions in this last year, the fact that any women would feel a need to submit to such misogynistic mistreatments in order to feed her family and herself, is not deplorable; it just is.  Some in the press and public do not think race plays a role in this story; class is only a consideration.  However, I think this incident speaks to a society in trouble.  For me the party atmosphere alone causes me great trepidation.  As I searched the Internet seeking documentation, I discovered “T and A,” or euphemistically know as breasts and bottoms.

This incident began when a single mother, enrolled in a college that serves a primarily Black population accused three men of rape.  The African American woman is a financially strapped student.  Options and opportunities are few for Black wo/men in today’s society.  The affirmed “appellant” was searching for a way to help her family and herself.  She turned to a profession that offers monetary rewards and few emotional incentives.  The number of men that are willing to pay for her performance is large.  Thus, the oft-discussed petitioner was hired to satisfy the “natural” and “manly” needs of a privileged group of “scholars.

You recall reports of the case. . . .

With its overtones of race, sex, and privilege, the Duke case instantly drew national news media attention. The accuser was a poor, black, local single mother working at an escort service while enrolled at the predominantly black North Carolina Central University in Durham; the Duke students were relatively well-off, white out-of-staters – members of a storied lacrosse team at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities. The accuser’s vivid account of racist and misogynistic taunts also fueled a simmering debate about the off-field behavior of elite athletes and the proper role of big-time sports on America’s college campuses.

Throughout the months of court review, the families had opportunities to speak out publicly.  Empathy for these affluent, all-American, athletic, academics, was ample.  Relatives chatted.  They told tales of the “emotional toll” this trial takes.  The mother of Duke University lacrosse player Reade Seligmann discussed her sorrow. The genteel parent sympathized with the complainant.

In an exclusive interview with CBS News correspondent Trish Regan, Seligmann’s mother, Kathy, said that despite her family’s nightmare, she does not blame the accuser.

“I don’t hate her…I think she panicked and made up this story. I pray that she didn’t mean for this to happen,” Kathy told Regan.

The proud mom then spoke of her saintly son, a boy that like many others acts in a manner that society condones.  Praise for the young men was plentiful.  They come from good families; they are good boys.

“I am so proud of their resolve, their strength, and the first-class manner with which they handled this entire episode,” Pressler [Mike Pressler, former coach of the Duke lacrosse team] said of David Evans, Colin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, the students over whom the charges loomed for more than a year.

Yes, pride and punishment were constant companions of these champions for the last thirteen months.  The quandary overwhelmed their parents.  Local communities expressed their concern for the predicament these fine fellows faced bravely.  Tears touched the hearts of all those involved.

Seligmann’s parents, Kathy and Philip, live in residential New Jersey, where Phil works as an investor while Kathy raises their four boys. Reade is the oldest. On the day Reade was indicted, Kathy told Regan she found her youngest son crying as he watched a news report.

“He looked at me and cried, ‘Mom, why are they doing this?’ To see this happen to your eldest son, and to see your youngest son’s reaction is just heartbreaking,” Kathy said.

His mother told Regan Reade has not once cried, or shown any fear. “Even when he stepped out of the police car, he kept his head up high,” Kathy said. “He holds this family together. I would just like him to have his life back.”

Ah, to have a life that is, by all accounts, filled with achievements, accomplishments that few Black Americans have available to them.  In spite of Affirmative Action laws, as tentative as these are, when a Black man or woman walks into a room, their skin color speaks before they do. Assumptions are made.  Authentic chances to perform, as able, are rarely granted.  Bigotry is not blind.

Prestige and privilege are often bestowed upon white persons.  Blacks, working to meet their goals, are stopped.  They must learn they have a station.  Attempts to accomplish greatness leave a Black man or woman besieged.  Often, naysayers bombard an aspiring African-American.  Well-wishers say “No, you cannot do that.”  Consider Presidential hopeful Barack Obama and the statements made by the media and the masses.  “Is he Black enough, or perhaps too Black to be President of the United States.”

Tiger Woods has his own experiences.  He too, is too Black, not Black enough, too Asian, a Native American, and obviously has a little European blood in his line.  Early in his career, an editorial appeared in the Saint Anthony Messanger . . .

A few months ago, Woods became the first African American and the first Asian American to win the Masters tournament. Until 1990, no black man was allowed to join Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters. To date, it has only two black members. In fact, Clifford Roberts, the founder of the Masters tournament, once proclaimed, “As long as I’m alive, golfers will be white, and caddies will be black.” Tiger Woods shattered that long-held belief. Prior to his win, Woods says he said a prayer thanking the other black golfers who had paved the way for him.

Then there is Oprah.  Even after decades of success, many muse, ‘How did she do it?’

Having experienced much abuse and adversity as a young child, Oprah developed the survival instinct at an early age. She learned the lesson that if you wanted to not only stay alive but also make something of yourself you had to fight. This would well prepare her for the obstacles she would later face in the worlds of broadcasting and business.

While it is true many develop such an instinct, few find a way to express themselves vibrantly.  Fewer still find someone to believe in them.  The impressions of others can keep us down.  Lack of information can lock us in.  Ignorance does not breed bliss.  Awareness is not always ecstasy.  At times, financial constraints hinder us, even when we have access.  Consider the circumstances of the Seligmann family.

Reade’s father, however, says that the case “has taken an unbelievable and horrendous emotional toll” on his family, which borrowed $400,000 from a close friend to post their son’s bond.

In an affidavit filed Wednesday, Philip Seligmann said Reade “has never been involved in the criminal justice system in any state before the filing of these charges.”

“We are committed as a family, along with Reade, to do everything necessary to restore our good name,” Philip Seligmann said in the affidavit, which was filed along with a motion by defense attorneys seeking discovery evidence from the district attorney.

The filings come a day before attorneys for Seligmann, as well as co-defendants Finnerty and Evans, are scheduled to appear in court for a procedural hearing in the case. The players have received permission to miss the court appearance.

All three men are free on $400,000 bond. At Thursday’s hearing, Seligmann’s attorneys will seek a bond reduction. In his affidavit, Philip Seligmann said the $400,000 was too much for him to post himself. He instead turned to an unnamed friend, who volunteered the money.

“I was prepared to do everything possible to prevent my son from spending time in jail for a crime he did not commit,” he said.

Ah, to have friends in high places, with money and means.  How sad life is for those that struggle.  The young Reade spoke of this.

Free of sexual offense and kidnapping charges, three steely-eyed former lacrosse players at Duke University called Wednesday for reforms in the justice system and restraint in the media.

“This whole experience has opened my eyes to a world of injustice that I never knew existed,” said Reade Seligmann, one of the exonerated athletes . . . The players and their attorneys acknowledged that innocent people go to prison because they can’t afford high-powered legal teams.

“Many people across this country, across this state, would not have the opportunity that we did, and this could simply have been brushed underneath the rug just as another case and some innocent person would end up in jail for their entire life,” Evans said. “It’s just not right.”

“It” is not right.  The injustice is great.  The accuser is, and was in prison. Her “cage” bars her from participating in the life the white boys know. Society ignores or excuses her barriers.  However, they are solid and strong.  The “accuser” is a victim of radical racism and significant sexism.

Might the young men imagine the unfairness, inequality, bias, and bigotry this woman experiences daily.

I cannot help but wonder, why must any young woman subject herself to the sexual desires of strangers?  Is it not true that money is not meant to buy the soul, or enslave another human being.  The North Carolina Central University student need not be the subject of domination; yet, she is.  This scholar of lesser means seeks solace in whatever ways are available to her.  In a society where “Boys will be boys,” and “Sowing wild oats” is standard, sex for the sake of sex survives.  Such antics are even thought admirable by many.

When we as a nation support white students as they engage in lewd behavior, or “levity,” while dressed in blackfaces, Klu Klux Klan costumes, and carrying a noose, then we are advocating activities that advance racism.  While, when pressed, we hear words from Associate Deans that are wise and wonderful yet reap few changes, what are we to think.

“We hope we can start a deeper dialogue on … why these types of activities hurt people and why they get the kind of response they do,” said Jim Hoppe, the [Macalester College in Minnesota] school’s associate dean of students

Hypocrisy and chauvinism are alive and well.

Might we authentically examine “truth.”  If the Lacrosse team players were Black, would they have been had equal opportunities to be heard.  If the woman was white, would she have been viewed differently?  If Black men were glaring and gawking at a white women, oh the woes.  Certainly, in such a case, prison, or worse, would definitely have been the outcome.

We may wish to consider whether a strong, powerful, prestigious community would support the families if the athletes were African American.  Are their enough affluent and admired Black persons able to plead a similar case?  Would these individuals be eager to sign petitions in support of an African American accused?  Perhaps, more importantly, would it matter if they did?

You might muse the Rutgers University basketball scholars are receiving much press and support.  Thankfully, they are.  However, the assumption that they sell their bodies was made.  You likely heard the words uttered by the infamous radio broadcaster and his producer.  Perhaps, were these female athletes not on tape, as a team, during a nationally acclaimed event the out come would be different.  People seeing these young Black [and white] women on the street may assume, they are as Black women are presumed to be, “[fill in the blank] with the words of Don Imus” and his sidekick Bernard McGuirk.

Duke Lacrosse Players and Reasons to Ponder . . .