Trinity United Church of Christ; Pastor Wright Homilies and Hope



Audacity To Hope Jeremiah Wright Part 1

Please review and reflect upon the inspirational text.  Wright’s Sermon – “The Audacity To Hope”

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning.

~ Barack Obama [Senator and Potential President] March 18, 2008

When we are separate, our experience is never equal.  African-Americans mingle among the many Anglos in this country.  However, individuals with dark-complexions do not fully unite or fit into a society that segregates by color.  While Americans have forcibly progressed beyond the laws that allowed for racial discrimination, the bias and bigotry that filled the hearts of many citizens in the United States for centuries still thrives.  While we muse, we love thy neighbor, we react to those whose race is not our own.

Americans claim they are Christian, inclusive.  Indeed, we are a Judeo-Christian nation.  Yet, Jews are still scorned in America, as are people of any color that is other than a pinkish white.  Amongst Caucasians, the habit of hate has been passed on for generations.  Yet, when those whose skin is pale, hear the words of a Black man, a Reverend, Jeremiah Wright, who has been wounded by racism for all the years of his life, speak of his distress, they react as though they had never uttered a racial epithet in their lives.

The most respected Americans, white in color proclaim, “I have never heard such vile derisive language in an Anglo church.”  “No preacher, pastor, priest, or rabbi would ever express him or herself in such a loathsome manner.”  Shocked Caucasians inquire as if to invite a shared criticism, “Is this what Black people believe?”  If reasons are presented for such resentment, the response from self-righteous lovers of G-d and man is, “African-Americans are bigoted!”  “How dare they.”  The pink persons declare, “In the House of the Lord only words of love are spoken, at least that is the way it is in white churches, temples, and synagogues.”

However, this may not be the case.  Hate is harbored on every avenue in America, even in places of worship.  As Barack Obama dared to remind us, on Sundays African-Americans and Anglos who reside in the United States are perhaps more divided than they are on any other day.  The pale persons pray with those whose skin tone is similar to their own.  When we look at only the surface, all whites may appear equal; and they are in the eyes of the Almighty.  Yet, as humans gaze upon each other, they see differences.

A white man or woman, whose gender preference is unlike those of the self-ordained “absolved of all “sins” congregation may experience discrimination even in death.

Church learns vet was gay, cancels memorial

Texas congregation acted out of principle, not malice, pastor says

Associated Press.  MSNBC

August 11, 2007

Arlington, Texas – A megachurch canceled a memorial service for a Navy veteran 24 hours before it was to start because the deceased was gay.

Officials at the nondenominational High Point Church knew that Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host his service, said his sister, Kathleen Wright.  But after his obituary listed his life partner as one of his survivors, she said, it was called off.

“It’s a slap in the face.  It’s like, ‘Oh, we’re sorry he died, but he’s gay so we can’t help you,”‘ she said Friday. . .

Simons said the church believes homosexuality is a sin, and it would have appeared to endorse that lifestyle if the service had been held there.

“We did decline to host the service – not based on hatred, not based on discrimination, but based on principle,” Simons told The Associated Press.  “Had we known it on the day they first spoke about it – yes, we would have declined then.  It’s not that we didn’t love the family.”

Love rears its ugly head in many odd ways.  Fondness, in the form of fury and foment, is found on film throughout cyberspace.  As the “average” American bears witness, people, pale in color, have become a community of contempt.  Condescension is what appears in the Judeo-Christian churches throughout the land of the free.  Americans, be they  Jewish, Mormon, Protestant or Christian are calm when they contemplate the G-d and the all that he creates.  People are polite in public; however, when they are in the comfort of their homes they express what they claim is never stated.  The proper and pink teach their progeny to believe as they do.

The Year In Hate, 2005

A 5% annual increase in hate groups in 2005 caps a remarkable rise of 33% over the five-year period that began in 2000.

By Mark Potok

Intelligence Report

Southern Poverty Law

Spring 2006

Fueled by belligerent tactics and publicity stunts, the number of hate groups operating in the United States rose from 762 in 2004 to 803 last year, capping an increase of fully 33% over the five years since 2000.

The expansion of hate groups last year, documented by the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, seemed to be helped along by aggressive maneuvers that landed them on front pages and in national news broadcasts.  The National Socialist Movement, for instance, repeatedly made national news with provocative attempts to march through black, inner-city neighborhoods.  Other groups rallied with increasing fervor and frequency, and even undertook sure-to-infuriate campaigns like “Operation Schoolyard,” an attempt in the 2004-2005 school year to distribute 100,000 free racist music CDs to schoolchildren . . .  A growing Internet presence also helped groups’ propaganda to flourish; there were 524 hate sites counted in 2005, up 12% from 468 in 2004.

Yes, whites individuals and groups do indoctrinate their young.  The practice amid the pink population is as odious as they believe it is among African-Americans.  Whites are as blackened by bigotry as their brethren may be.  

Sadly, too frequently when we look upon another we see only what appears on the surface.  Just as the oppressed of one color or creed voices words that may be defined as dishonorable, so too do those in the supposed superior sect.  Each of us errors.  We are all emotional beings, complex and never viewed completely.  New York Times Columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof, addressed this truth in his recent editorial, Obama and Race.  The articulate author writes of what goes on within the walls of Trintiy United Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois.

Many well-meaning Americans perceive Mr. Wright as fundamentally a hate-monger who preaches antagonism toward whites.  But those who know his church say that is an unrecognizable caricature: He is a complex figure and sometimes a reckless speaker, but one of his central messages is not anti-white hostility but black self-reliance.

“The big thing for Wright is hope,” said Martin Marty, one of America’s foremost theologians, who has known the Rev. Wright for 35 years and attended many of his services. “You hear ‘hope, hope, hope.’ Lots of ordinary people are there, and they’re there not to blast the whites. They’re there to get hope.”

Professor Marty said that as a white person, he sticks out in the largely black congregation but is always greeted with warmth and hospitality. “It’s not anti-white,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who’s white who walks out of there not feeling affirmed.”

Mr. Wright has indeed made some outrageous statements. But he should be judged as well by his actions – including a vigorous effort to address poverty, ill health, injustice and AIDS in his ministry. Mr. Wright has been frightfully wrong on many topics, but he was right on poverty, civil rights and compassion for AIDS victims.

What should draw much more scrutiny in this campaign than any pastor’s sermons is the candidates’ positions on education, health care and poverty – and their ability to put those policies in place. Cutting off health care benefits for low-income children strikes me as much more offensive than any inflammatory sermon.

Indeed, what is an affront to a person affected by a policy or practice is barely observable to one who will never realize how a political promise or lack thereof can destroy the life of those they love.  When in an impoverished community people depend on the kindness of a culture such as the society Thomas Paine described, one in which the commonweal was more important than the needs of any individual.  The disenfranchised rely on the good will of people who believe in the Lord, practice as Jesus preached, “Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Yet, inside and outside of a religious house, mere mortal man fails to adhere to the principles preached from the pulpit.  We need only remember the plight of a sweet young child, a twelve year old, Deamonte Driver who died of a toothache Sunday, February 25, 2007.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren’t so hard to find.

If his mother hadn’t been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte’s own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George’s County boy died.

Few in a white American world can imagine such a situation.  Certainly, a Caucasian churchgoer does not subscribe to the belief a child must suffer.  No clergy would caste a little one to the wolves or ask them to endure the burden of a national budget disagreement.  An ordained Minister, Reverend, Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi, a Shaman would not will a poverty-stricken parent, people within an impoverished community, or those not yet empowered, to care for a child without adequate means to assist the young person.  That is unless the religious leader is part of the “Fellowship” or “Family,” who congregates in Washington District of Columbia or other Capitols throughout the globe.

The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God’s plan.

This group of world leaders, the affluent and comfortable from Congress to the Cabinet, from the White House to the wondrous world of power elite, accepts as part of their mission, that those whose pigmentation is darker, or persons deemed to be of lesser value may be left to die when they no longer serve the “masters.”  This theological order differs from some of the other organized religion.

The Family avoids the word Christian but worships Jesus, though not the Jesus who promised the earth to the “meek.” They believe that, in mass societies, it’s only the elites who matter, the political leaders who can build God’s “dominion” on earth.  Insofar as the Family has a consistent philosophy, it’s all about power — cultivating it, building it and networking it together into ever-stronger units, or “cells.”  “We work with power where we can,” Doug Coe [Fellowship leader] has said, and “build new power where we can’t.”

 

African-Americans rarely and barely have authority equal to those of Anglos in this nation.  “Affirmative Action,” a policy established to appease those embarrassed by the actions of their ancestors, is granted and taken away.  Caucasians complain of “reverse racism,” for few can comprehend.

[B]lacks have not simply been treated unfairly; they have been subjected first to decades of slavery, and then to decades of second-class citizenship, widespread legalized discrimination, economic persecution, educational deprivation, and cultural stigmatization. They have been bought, sold, killed, beaten, raped, excluded, exploited, shamed, and scorned for a very long time.  The word “unfair” is hardly an adequate description of their experience, and the belated gift of “fairness” in the form of a resolution no longer to discriminate against them legally is hardly an adequate remedy for the deep disadvantages that the prior discrimination has produced. When the deck is stacked against you in more ways than you can even count, it is small consolation to hear that you are now free to enter the game and take your chances.

Chances are opportunities will be scant and tentative at that.  Former Congresswoman and Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro reminds us of this.  For the Clinton cohort, and a former member of the Clinton Finance Committee, Barack Obama, and perhaps all Black Americans are “lucky” to be where they are today.  For Ferraro, another Anglo American who evidently cannot connect to the experience of being poor or purplish-brown in hue, being Black in this country is apparently an advantage.  Perchance, it is a privilege to suffer at the hands of those in power, the people who do not wish to speak of their work or worship.  We cannot know.  For unlike the scenes seen in volumes of video in the worldwide web or in news network libraries, there are no recordings of what occurs in “Fellowship” [Family] meetings.  The “cells” remain cloistered, just as the rich do.

[T]he prayer groups have become cherished sanctuaries for their members-providing respite, however brief, from the cacophony of political Washington. Speaking about a group is strongly discouraged, and what transpires at meetings is strictly off the record.

No one will know if these elite powerbrokers express their racial hatred aloud.  One can only determine what is true through the policies these persons enact.  They may say they prayer for equality; however, the laws introduced and passed frequently, further disenfranchise the poor and people of color.

There is much evidence, anecdotal as the Ferraro affair may be, and research analysis, to suggest Caucasians in this country find it difficult to relate to the circumstances of those whose skin is a darker color.  The predicament of people whose skin gleams a brownish-purplish hue is incomprehensible to those who do not suffer from the effects of racism.

A Jew can pass amongst gentiles.  An Asian can climb, albeit inch-by-inch.  Hispanics are hindered in their assent; yet, not in the way a Black man or woman is. An African-American is never fully free from the stereotypes.  On screen dramas, depict African-Americans as villains.  The nightly news amplifies this message.  The public presumes if a crime is committed, certainly the lawbreaker will be Black.  

Our language leads us to believe black is bad.  White is good.  From childhood on Americans are indoctrinated.  Slavery may have ended with the Emancipation Proclamation; however, African-Americans remained incarcerated in caricatures.

From the introduction of animated film in the early 1900s to the 1950s, ethnic humor was a staple of American-made cartoons. Yet, as Christopher Lehman shows in this revealing study, the depiction of African Americans in particular became so inextricably linked to the cartoon medium as to influence its evolution through those five decades. He argues that what is in many ways most distinctive about American animation reflects white animators’ visual interpretations of African American cultural expression.

The first American animators drew on popular black representations, many of which were caricatures rooted in the culture of southern slavery. During the 1920s, the advent of the sound-synchronized cartoon inspired animators to blend antebellum-era black stereotypes with the modern black cultural expressions of jazz musicians and Hollywood actors. When the film industry set out to desexualize movies through the imposition of the Hays Code in the early 1930s, it regulated the portrayal of African Americans largely by segregating black characters from others, especially white females. At the same time, animators found new ways to exploit the popularity of African American culture by creating animal characters like Bugs Bunny who exhibited characteristics associated with African Americans without being identifiably black.

By the 1950s, protests from civil rights activists and the growing popularity of white cartoon characters led animators away from much of the black representation on which they had built the medium.  Even so, animated films today continue to portray African American characters and culture, and not necessarily in a favorable light.

Perhaps, the portrayals burned into our brains, when we were toddlers, those heard in church, in homes, in movie theatres, and on televisions, helps to explain why Anglo Americans cannot imagine what it like to be Black in America.  Few Caucasians have experienced the pain of prejudice.  Pinkish people cannot comprehend what it feels like to consistently be a victim of avoidance.  An Anglo does not think that their mere appearance might threaten another.  White people walk down the street without a care.  No one crosses the boulevard in order to steer clear of them as happens frequently to a Black man or woman approaching from the other direction.

Anglos do not know what it feels like to be shunned, snubbed, or scorned because your skin is dark.  Caucasians cannot pretend to know how what some say is a tease is truly a threat.  When Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman smiled and suggested today’s young players should “lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley,” African-Americans did not laugh. A noose in the neighborhood can cause ones’ blood to curdle.  A word as vile as n*gg*r, does not cut to the core of a white man or woman who has never lost a loved-one to brutal aggressions based only on race.  There is much the white world does not realize or rationalize as they sit in their ivory churches.

To whites, for example, it has been shocking to hear Mr. Wright suggest that the AIDS virus was released as a deliberate government plot to kill black people.

That may be an absurd view in white circles, but a 1990 survey found that 30 percent of African-Americans believed this was at least plausible.

“That’s a real standard belief,” noted Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a political scientist at Princeton (and former member of Trinity church, when she lived in Chicago). “One of the things fascinating to me watching these responses to Jeremiah Wright is that white Americans find his beliefs so fringe or so extreme. When if you’ve spent time in black communities, they are not shared by everyone, but they are pretty common beliefs.”

This thought is not merely a personal opinion, research documents the truth of this assessment.  White Americans don’t truly comprehend racial disparities in our country.  Philip Mazzocco, co-author of the a study titled, Whites Underestimate the Costs of Being Black, and Assistant Professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus states, “The costs of being black in our society are very well documented.”  “Blacks have significantly lower income and wealth, higher levels of poverty, and even shorter life spans, among many other disparities, compared to whites.”  Researcher Mazzocco avows, “white households average about $150,000 more wealth than the typical black family.” Overall, the total assets for an Anglo family are about five times greater than that of an African-American family.  The disparity seems a constant in American history.  The chasm has persisted for years.  Mazzocco said. . . .

“When white Americans find it within themselves to say ‘I must be compensated for a past injustice done to me’ but the same logic evaporates when the injustice concerns black Americans, they are staring straight at bias,” Banaji [co-author Mahzarin Banaji, the Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University] said.

What is good for thou, is not tolerable for thee.  Hypocrisy is a theme we know all too well.  We witness it here in America.  We hear charlatan expressions in our daily lives.  Is this not the concern Caucasians present, when they criticize Reverend Wright?

Opportunely, those who protest too much forget the numerous groups who hate in the name of G-d, or the “Family” formed amongst the elite.  Nonetheless, pinkish people preach; white worshipers never speak words of woe, or wrath.  The Judeo-Christian clergy, and the congregation, at least when in church, do not speak badly of their brethren.  If only Jesus had known.  The Son of the Holy Father may not have felt a need to warn the hypocrites.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

~ Matthew 7:1-5 RSV

Perhaps, our best teachers, those who see most clearly, understand the complexity that is humankind.  Perchance, a parishioner hears what is truly said.  One with love in his or her heart does not hear the gospel as a reason for grief.  He, or she, the commoners within a congregation may understand the clergyman in a manner consistent with the whole being that stands before them each and every Sunday.  It seems Kennise M Herring, an “average” disciple of Jeremiah Wright lives the lessons of the Lord more fully than those who gather in gentler, kinder  churches.

I am a member of Trinity United Church of Christ and have been for 17 years.  Interestingly, I’ve never seen Barack in church, which may simply speak to the fact that there are 3 sermons and our family attends a different service than the Obama family.

I was in attendance in the sermon after 9/11 that has been circulated.  Ironically, I felt soothed following that sermon.  I certainly remembered upon viewing the clips the infamous God Damn America comments, but that is not what stood out for me in that service.  At the start of the service, Reverend Wright spoke poignantly about his fears as he was in New York on that fateful day.  He spoke about the tremendous pain he observed, the evil and horror of the event and of his personal realization that he may never get to tell all of us how much he loved us.  He spoke of realizing that his life with his family was not guaranteed and that he could not take anything for granted.  He made a commitment to tell us at each service that he loved us and I experienced his words-I love you-simply and freely offered as real and soothing.

Yes-he spoke about policy matters and clearly used strong language but at the time, neither I or my three children or my husband found it the salient part of the talk.  Despite the strong rhetoric, I left church feeling that “there is a balm in Gilead.”  Reverend Wright delivered the eulogy at my aunt’s funeral and it is not hyperbole to say that I was more moved by his words than I have ever been at a funeral.  He was warm, compassionate, empathic, and genuinely sad for as he said repeatedly about my aunt, “this was not ordinary parishioner, this was my friend.”

Reverend Wright frequently chided those of us too constricted to freely experience the passion often evident in the sanctuary and suggested that we were too educated to show our love for Jesus.  I, being one of the more reserved-ok-constricted ones simply smiled for I longed for the kind of intimate, passionate relationship with God that he seems to have cultivated with God.

In finishing, I have seen this man on too many occasions do too much that is good and meaningful.  He is imperfect-he will tell you that in a minute but I am certain in my core that he is doing God’s work and he loves God’s children even if he is disgusted by their behavior at times.

There are two Americas and the one I occupy is often invisible.  How I wish that the peek inside my world had offered a fuller portrait of this man and not the caricature.

Might the Anglo individuals who dwell in the more visible America, assess their own passion, principles, and preachers.  Might Caucasians consider the hypocrisy that lives within them and their clergy.  Would white Americans be willing to judge one of their own people as harshly as they do Barack Obama or his Pastor, Reverend Wright?  

Would Anglo Americans condemn one of the most profound and powerful Senators, Presidential aspirant Hillary Rodham Clinton for her affiliation with the “Fellowship?”  Potential President Barack Obama “condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy.”  Yet, Hillary Rodham Clinton, an active participant of the “most elite cell” [their term]  says nothing of the fact that . . .

The Family takes credit for some of Clinton’s rightward legislative tendencies, including her support for a law guaranteeing “religious freedom” in the workplace, such as for pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions and police officers who refuse to guard abortion clinics.

The former First Lady, Caucasian Clinton may not have considered how these laws affect those in the Black community.  Certainly, one would imagine that the Senator, a scholar would understand that without birth control, abortions are more likely.  Perhaps, she, as most Anglo Americans is unfamiliar with a life that differs from her own.  

As an elite, among the “Family” Hillary Clinton may not have experienced the hurt that is an African-American’s life.  Those in Black neighborhoods have limited access to pharmacists and clinics.  The notion that African-Americans might shop around for someone to serve them is absurd.  We need only consider the availability of viable transportation, the cost to travel, and the ultimate truth, the quality of health care services.  Those whose complexion is dark in color remain separate and unequal in an America dominated by the affluent who are lighter in color and pray within a selective Fellowship.

Perchance, prosperous persons, members of the Family “cells,” people such as Senator Clinton, do not rant and rage as they reflect on racism.  They cannot; they do not relate.  These prominent individuals do not need to discuss their mediation which remains publicly unmentionable.  They to talk of prejudice or the policies they ratify in order to retain power.  Possibly, affluent Anglos and those who merely wish to appear proper do not need to speak of the strife that is their life in church, synagogues, or temples, for their situation does not compare.

For most Caucasians and for former First Lady Clinton, church conversations are yet to be called into question.  However, we might wonder, what if Senator Clinton’s religious beliefs, her practices, and her pastor are not subjects of scrutiny.  What if all Anglos were subject to such severe scrutiny?  Might the discussion help eliminate the disdain?  Could empathy be the cure for what ails America.  Barack Obama asked us to consider that possibility.  Yet, apparently the request is denied.

Churchgoers in the white community continue to think they do not speak of cruelties committed against them, few as these may be.  These pious people truly believe they live by the Golden Rule, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Sadly, it seems Anglos do not wish to discuss hypocrisy either.  Perhaps, those with paler complexions should.  From Americans reaction to the topic of racism, it is obvious, parishioners in pinkish neighborhoods still have much to learn of the Lord and the lessons he hoped to impart.



Audacity To Hope Jeremiah Wright Part 2

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Please review and reflect upon the inspirational text. Wright’s Sermon – “The Audacity To Hope”

Sermons, Sources, A Search for Truth and Hope . . .

Black History; The Past is Present

Joseph McNeil (from left), Franklin in McCain, Billy Smith and Clarence Henderson sit in protest at the whites-only lunch counter at Woolworth during the second day of peaceful protest,

February 2, 1960.Corbis

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

French Novelist, Alphonse Karr offered, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  ‘Tis too true.  Beginning in the month of February 1976, Americans were given an opportunity to realize how profound the axiom is.  For four short winter weeks, citizens of this country contemplate what was.  We, as a nation honor Black History.  For a moment, countrymen set aside the preeminent prejudices that govern many practices and policies.  As a nation, we ponder how much African-Americans have contributed to this country.  

Tales are told; triumphs recounted.  Perhaps one of most significant heartfelt stories shared was aired on February 1, 2008.  All Things Considered producers gave the listeners much to contemplate.  Newscaster, Michele Norris introduced an unassuming activist whose personal anecdote brought tears to the eyes of many in the National Public Radio audience.  The Woolworth Sit-In That Launched a Movement, as narrated by one of the Greensboro Four, Franklin McCain reminds us of how often the past is found in the present.

Franklin in McCain remembered aloud the day he and his fellow classmates entered a Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth Five and Dime Store with intent.  The four students, each from the all-black North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College walked into the Drug Store determined to order a meal and dine at the “whites only” lunch counter.

In 1960, such an act was unthinkable.  Black Americans knew their place, and it was not near pinkish people.  To consider being physically close, or to question the authority of the Anglos in power, was cause for a near certain death sentence.  Nonetheless, after centuries of oppression, the descendants of slaves felt it was time to assert them selves, to peacefully stand strong in support of equal and civil rights.  

The young men strode into the store, made a few purchases, and then moved toward the stools at the luncheonette.  Each understood that this act was not allowed.  Local laws, regulation imposed by retailers, or societal standards prohibited such an action.

McCain remembers the anxiety he felt when he went to the store that Monday afternoon, the plan he and his friends had devised to launch their protest and how he felt when he sat down on that stool.

“Fifteen seconds after … I had the most wonderful feeling.  I had a feeling of liberation, restored manhood.  I had a natural high.  And I truly felt almost invincible.  Mind you, [I was] just sitting on a dumb stool and not having asked for service yet,” McCain says.

“It’s a feeling that I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to have again.  It’s the kind of thing that people pray for . . .  and wish for all their lives and never experience it.  And I felt as though I wouldn’t have been cheated out of life had that been the end of my life at that second or that moment.”

The waitress behind the counter refused to serve the four gentle men any food.  The young chaps informed the woman that they had been waited on only moments earlier.  The fellows, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Billy Smith, and Clarence Henderson had procured wares in the store before they took seats at the food bar.  The students questioned why could they buy goods, and yet not pay for, and then eat the fodder available for sale in the store restaurant.  Befuddled, the server called her supervisor.

The retail manager approached the students and told them to leave.  He said the young men could have a meal at the stand-up counter in the basement, but not in the more visible “For Whites Only” luncheon area.  The Executive proclaimed corporate headquarters mandated the policy.  [Later, the four scholars would learn this was not true.]

After a five-minute dialogue, the manager threw his hands up in dismay and walked back into the kitchen.  Moments passed and a police entered the store.  The law-officer paced back and forth, near the four young men.  He glared and stared at the fellows. None of the college men were combative.  They remained calm.  Then, the policeman pulled out his nightstick.  The law-enforcer slapped the stick in the palm of his hand repeatedly.

The then academic realized the lawman did not know what to do. McCain recalls the zeal he felt.  The deputy did not sense what he could or could not do.  The bureaucrat was befuddled.  The four college men were not disturbing the peace; indeed, the gents were tranquil and composed.

A older white woman watched the entire incident.  In a southern town such as Greensboro, North Carolina, circa 1960, one could assume the thoughts of a little old lady were not good.  The female, probably a product of the segregated South stared at the lads throughout the affair.  Franklin McCain imagined she was suspicious and distrustful of the four young men.  His thought was the lady was scornful.  He imagined, were she to speak, she would say, “Shame on you” to the Black “boys” at the counter.

Eventually, she finished her doughnut and coffee. And she walked behind McNeil and McCain – and put her hands on their shoulders.

“She said in a very calm voice, ‘Boys, I am so proud of you. I only regret that you didn’t do this 10 years ago.'” McCain recalls.

“What I learned from that little incident was … don’t you ever, ever stereotype anybody in this life until you at least experience them and have the opportunity to talk to them. I’m even more cognizant of that today – situations like that – and I’m always open to people who speak differently, who look differently, and who come from different places,” he says.

Two score and eight years later, many people believe they are as Franklin McCain now is, free from stereotypes.  Throughout this territory, citizens of the United States claim to be colorblind.  The accepted conviction is, that in America, life has changed.  White Americans like to think racism is a obsession long past.  Historians turn to accounts such as the tale of the Greensboro four and state, the civil rights movement was a success.

Journalist Michele Norris expressed as many would, “If you stop somewhere today for a cup of coffee and maybe a tuna sandwich, you probably saw other people at that establishment of a different race. Today, ‘No big deal;’ Back in 1960, in the America south, that scene would have been a very big deal.”  In conclusion, the broadcaster stated . . .

On that first day, Feb. 1, the four men stayed at the lunch counter until closing. The next day, they came back with 15 other students. By the third day, 300 joined in; later, 1,000.

The sit-ins spread to lunch counters across the country — and changed history.

However, life for an African-American in 2008 is still riddled with racism.  The difference is the design is more subtle.  We remember Rosa Parks, the woman who stood up for freedom.  This African-American woman was tired of giving up her seat and her rights to racist whites who believed they were better than she.  When asked to stand or move to the back of a bus, Rosa Parks refused.  In a trolley filled with whites, many witnessed what would not occur today.

Blacks need not forfeit their place on the bus bench to an Anglo.  Perchance, in part, because few whites use public transportation. Anglo Americans own automobiles.  

African-American and Latino households are much less likely than white families to own a car, leaving us with those indelible images of people of color crying out from the rooftops [in 2005, during Hurricane Katrina.]

A great deal of attention in the last two decades has been focused on the “digital divide,” the concern that unequal access to new forms of technology such as the Internet are leaving people behind based on their class and race. But Hurricane Katrina exposed the “internal combustion engine” divide, the alarming disparity in car ownership that literally was the difference between life and death for many Gulf Coast residents.

A recent report on racial disparities in car ownership reveals that one in four Black households (24 percent) and one in six Latino households (17 percent) does not own a car.  This is compared to one in fourteen white households (7 percent) who are car-less. In the eleven coastal counties with the highest incidence and future risk of hurricanes, people without cars are disproportionately people of color.  These include counties in Houston, Providence, New Orleans, Tampa, New York City, and Miami.  In Orleans Parish New Orleans, for example, over 35 percent of African-Americans, 26 percent of Native Americans, and 27 percent of Latinos don’t own a car, compared to 15 percent of whites.

Persons with pale complexions are not restricted in their travel; nor are they denied entry to a place of business.  Black individuals are.  Light skinned persons are not relegated to the wrong side of the railroad tracks.  White persons do not worry when they wish to move into a neighborhood.  Sundown Towns do exclude Anglos.  A Caucasian can take residence wherever he or she chooses, with few exceptions.  Only poor credit might lessen the opportunities afforded to a white man or woman.  Early in the Twentieth Century, segregation was blatant.

Whites simply passed ordinances forbidding black people from buying or renting homes and, in some cases, even appearing on the street after sundown. To advertise their actions, the towns sometimes posted sundown signs on the highway or in the railroad station.

“There was a contagion of ordinances,” says Loewen. “Many small towns expelled the black population or decreed a policy of not allowing any blacks.” . . .

In 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, banning discrimination in housing, and the Supreme Court ruled in Jones v. Mayer that housing discrimination was unconstitutional. Since then, Loewen says, “sundown towns have been in retreat.”

But, he’s quick to add, “there are still hundreds of towns where blacks would risk their mental well-being as well as their physical well-being by living in them.”

Certainly, Caucasian Americans would like to believe this is not true. Countless offer evidence.  People point to the  Civil Rights Act 1964. White Americans, embarrassed by their history tried to make amends.  An aspect of compensation and atonement was the popular practice of colorblindness.  People who profess not see the color of a persons’ flesh act as though they have great insight.  The bigoted belch, ‘We do not discriminate.’  Then, the tolerant insulate themselves.  

Prejudiced persons isolate those whose skin is a shade thought less desirable.  Ghettos are hidden from view.  Highway walls seal “us” off from the slums. Americans acknowledge the city streets are not safe.  Thankfully, the suburbs are.  At times, one of “them” slips through the cracks.  Barriers are broken.  These fissures are filled with letters and threats of lynching.

Bridget Ward, whose recent move to a White neighborhood in Philadelphia was greeted with insults painted on her front door, told reporters outside her home in Bridesburg, “I am going to move. Y’all got your neighborhood. You can have it.”

The 32-year-old single mother said she will abandon her rented row house in the working-class neighborhood in northeast Philadelphia as soon as she can.

“The letter is a very serious thing,” said Kevin Vaughan, executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. “Bridget has two small kids–very, very good kids–and their safety weighed heavily on her mind.”

The letter said Ms. Ward’s daughters, Jasmine, 3, and Jamilla, 9, would die if the family stayed in the home, according to police. Agent Bob Norton said the FBI had entered the case.

The author of the death threat also boasted of having used a homemade bomb to drive a Black woman out of another White neighborhood.

Neither police nor Vaughan would quote directly from the letter except to say it referred to a group called “the posse.”

This mob of maligners is not unique.  In truth, racism has simply gone underground.  African-Americans are not run out on the rail, as they once were.  Anglo Americans have become more refined.  In 1982, in America the practice of intentional exclusion was ruled legal. Private clubs restrict persons of color and do not limit membership for those whose skin is light.

More recently, in November 2006,  a Whites Only Scholarship, was offered to students.  The Endowment created outrage; nonetheless, the policy and practice are still thought reasonable enough to initiate.

Lest we forget the most recent Supreme slight.  Jurists in the highest Court of the land ruled that schools in the “United” States can re-segregate.  In Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District Number 1 Et. Al. . . .

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the plurality opinion that “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

In essence, the Judiciary Branch of our government concluded, racial balance cannot be achieved by artificial means.  If citizens intentionally integrate then color will remain an issue.  Hence, by law it is decreed, the people in this nation must be colorblind and colormute.  Citizens can only hope that naturally mankind will decide to mix and mingle voluntarily, although rarely have they or will they as long as racism remains intact.

For African-Americans equality, while granted by the Constitution, is but a dream.  Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior spoke of the shared hope in a speech delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington District of Columbia.  While a large crowd listened to the eloquent speaker and cheered, millions more were not moved or changed.

Appearances may have been altered; however essentially, racism is alive and well in white America.  For the most part, a pinkish person is honored unless or until that Caucasian gives someone reason to react to his or her presence. If a white man commits murder or a Anglo woman neglects her children, people may gossip or scorn that individual.  Certainly, as a group, Caucasians will not be defined by the indiscretion of one individual.

In the United States teachers, bank tellers, taxi cab drivers, retailers, and even the most reasonable among us, may look at a Black person, a dark-skinned individual and assume the person is lazy, less than brilliant, lacking in awareness, lower in social status than any other person might be.  Sadly, in the United States, some supposed scholars present pseudo science as reason to support such ghastly and inaccurate stereotypes.

Sadly, or happily, few Americans experience as Franklin McCain did in the dawn of the Civil Rights movement.  Perhaps, if we each worked against the status quo, sat, or stood for equality, a little old lady, a sage of sorts, would approach us.  With her hands resting gently on our shoulders, this wise woman would say, in the most unexpected manner, “I am so proud of you. I only regret that you didn’t do this 10 years ago.'”

Americans, we can wait no longer.  Rather than recount the history of Blacks in America, let us all make history.  May we finally begin to act on principles, embrace our brethren each and every day.  Holidays do not heal a heart.  Hurts do not fade with pomp and circumstance.  Change does not come when we deem ourselves different.  If we, as a country are to truly revere our brothers and sisters, be they black, brown, yellow, or pink, we must not rely on words.  Deeds tell the tale that Franklin McCain recalls.

Resources for Racism . . .

Race Relations in America; Colormute, Not Colorblind

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

It’s never been my interest to run a race-based campaign.

My message has always been that I want everyone included in a broad coalition to bring about change.

I want to spend more time talking about solving the problems that people are feeling right now.


~ Barack Obama [United States Senator and Presidential Aspirant.  January 27, 2008]

In any Presidential election year, we hear of the race.  Yet, discussions of “race” are void, or are since a truce was tendered.  Americas would like to think of themselves as colorblind.  We are not.  Citizens of this country embrace “colormuteness, a term coined by Mica Pollock, Associate Professor of Education at Harvard University.  What Professor Pollock observes in classrooms and in the hallways of schools throughout the nation occurs each day on the campaign trail.  Children who wish to achieve excellence in the classroom are restricted by conventions they learned at an early age in our nation’s communities.

When a young Caucasian child encounters a Black being, if they have never seen a person with a dark complexion, he or she may point, tug at the a parent’s trouser, point, and say, “Mom, Why is his skin so brown?”  A lass might inquisitively exclaim, “Daddy, What is wrong with her complexion?  Characteristically, Mother or Father will say, “Shush!  It is not polite to point.”  Then the parent will pass on the message that they learned at their parent’s knee.  That communication will vary dependent on the family.  Nonetheless, what is true, no matter who the guardian might be, the tone will be hushed.  The tot will learn, we do not discuss the differences in skin tone or facial features.

What we were taught in our youth resonates in adult life.  We see it on the campaign trail.  Certain topics are acceptable and the one is forbidden.  This etiquette is evident in our most recent election.  Criticism is fine, as long as we do not broach the single most sensitive subject, “race,” as it relates to the color of one’s skin.

Candidates compete as they sprint towards the White House.  They rack up the votes, and rail against their rivals.  As Presidential hopefuls run for the Oval Office, they find themselves embroiled in discordant campaigns.  Whatever they might say, the electorate will react.  A delicate balance must be maintained.

Attack advertisements will fill the airwaves.  Hurdles will be jumped in an attempt to make an opponent look or sound bad.  The war veteran is no hero, and the soldier who stayed behind did not truly serve.  In cyberspace, the calculations are conventional.  The conversation can be extremely cruel.  Religion will rule if he or she becomes President.  His or her faith is not “right.”  His wife, her husband is [fill in the blank.]  Can a damsel deliver as Commander-In-Chief, or will a drama result in her distress.  However, the question that is addressed tentatively is, “Is America ready for a Black President?”  

Americans are intimately familiar with the scandals.  Constituents have witnessed what a little gossip can do.  Within each campaign, people observe divisiveness.  The demise of a fellow Democrat is fine.  A rival Republican can ridicule another with reason.  All is fair in love and war.  While an aspirant may be fond of Party loyalty, in a Presidential campaign, faithfulness and friendship are not generously applied to adversaries.  It is important to focus on differences if a candidate wishes to be the nominee for his or her Party, as long as the variation in skin color  is not mentioned.

Our countrymen think it vital to understand Mitt Romney is a Mormon.  The public believes it is important to contemplate, Mike Huckabee is a Preacher.  It is grand that Hillary Clinton is a woman, but do we need to say aloud, Barack Obama is Black.  

Sure, the words are said and the response is consistent.  “It should not make a difference.”  Yet, it does.  No one wishes to be labeled a bigot.  As adults, individuals recall what their parents said, “African-Americans are people too,” or one would hope they were thought to be in the United States.  Still, each citizen of this country understands, Black people fight for parity.  Even when conditions and circumstances improve for African-Americans, a few thrive, most struggle to survive.

Our Constitution claims “all men are created equal.”  However, in the States it seems that has never been the case.  While Americans are proud of the fact that finally they can choose to vote for someone who is not white, they do not wish to speak of “race,” only of the race.  Ah, how well-trained Americans are.

Supposedly, citizens have progressed beyond our repressive roots.  However, in truth, racism is rampant.  Just as Americans have done in past Presidential election years, and do each day of our existence, we place one “race” above another.

Being Black in the United States is a topic discussed among those who are, and balked at by persons who rather believe themselves without bias.  Carefully colormuted Caucasians do not wish to admit that that the sight of a dark skinned person can cause them to tightly clutch the pocketbook that hung loosely at their side.  Anglos do not wish to confess that they feel an the urge to clench a fist, or place keys between their fingers, just in case they need to use the pieces of metal as a weapon when in the presence of a person whose complexion is a purplish-brown.  

Few white individuals will tell of how they tremble when near an African-American stranger.  Fortunately, many need not think of what they might do if a Black individual was near.  In the United States, numerous neighborhoods are segregated, sometimes subtly, often overtly.

“Is it true that “Anna” stands for “Ain’t No N*gg*rs Allowed?”  I asked at the convenience store in Anna, Illinois, where I had stopped to buy coffee.

“Yes,” the clerk replied.  “That’s sad, isn’t it,” she added, distancing herself from the policy.  And she went on to assure me, “That all happened a long time ago.”

“I understand [racial exclusion] is still going on?”  I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.  “That’s sad.”

~ conversation with clerk, Anna, Illinois, October, 2001

Anna is a town of about 7,000 people, including adjoining Jonesboro.  The twin towns lie about 35 miles north of Cairo, in Southern Illinois.  In 1909, in the aftermath of a horrific nearby “spectacle lynching,” Anna and Jonesboro expelled their African Americans.  Both cities have been all-white ever since.  Nearly a century later, “Anna” is still considered by its residents and by citizens of nearby towns to mean “Ain’t No N*gge*s Allowed,” the acronym the convenience store clerk confirmed in 2001.

It is common knowledge that African Americans are not allowed to live in Anna, except for residents of the state mental hospital and transients at its two motels.  African Americans who find themselves in Anna and Jonesboro after dark – the majority-black basketball team from Cairo, for example – have been treated badly by residents of the towns and by fans and students of Anna-Jonesboro High School.

Towns like Anna and Jonesboro are often called “sundown towns,” owing to the signs that many of them formerly sported at their corporate limits – signs that usually said, “N*gge*r, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On You In __.”  Anna-Jonesboro had such signs on Highway 127 as recently as the 1970s.  In some areas, these communities were known as “sunset towns” and, in the Ozarks, “gray towns.”  In the East, although many communities excluded African Americans, the term “sundown town” itself was rarely used.  Residents of all-white suburbs also usually avoided the term, though not the policy. . .

The overlooking of sundown towns, stands in sharp contrast to the attention bestowed upon that other violent and extralegal race relations practice, lynching.  The literature on lynching is vast, encompassing at least 500 and perhaps thousands of volumes; at this point, we have at least one book for every ten confirmed lynchings.  Still the books keep coming; Amazon.com listed 126 for sale in 2004.

Yet, lynchings have ceased in America.  Sundown towns, on the other hand, continue to this day.

Nonetheless, the threat of such an act looms large in the United States.  In the enlightened era of the Twenty-First century, Americans have discussed or dismissed the appearance of nooses throughout our homeland.  More than a year passed before the mainstream media reported on the appearance of three nooses hung on a tree in Jena, Louisiana.  Naturally, the incident was said to be a Southern phenomenon.  However, weeks after a march on the city, in support of Civil Rights, another hangman’s rope was displayed on the office door of a Black faculty member at the Teachers College at Columbia University.  At a prestigious, Northern educational institution of higher learning, Americans were subject to lessons from the past.  In this nation, Blacks, regardless of their economic status, or social stature are not safe; nor are they respected as peers.

Granted, the goodly among us will state as Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University, declared, “This is an assault on African-Americans and therefore it is an assault on every one of us;” however, unless we speak of the unmentionable, those not victim to an attack, cannot imagine the wounds.  Niceties do not heal the invisible and deep scars.  Wounds are easily opened for they were never attended to.  Colorblind as Caucasians allege to be, they are not cured of the ills of prejudice.

Only weeks ago, Americans again observed how easily we move from the topic of racial discrimination to decrees of settlement.  No harm done, no words of division will be uttered.  The offender and the offended do not discuss inequity, injustice, insults, and intolerance; the reality of race relations is left behind.  School grounds, the campaign scene, and the world of sports are as the streets of America, battlegrounds for bigotry.  Yet, in each of these venues, participants replace the actual topic with another.  Apologies suffice.  Our parents would be proud.  Americans can admit when they are wrong and move on, or pretend to.

When Golf Channel commentator Kelly Tilghman joked on-air during the second round of the Mercedes-Benz Championship that ambitious young players should “lynch (Tiger Woods) in a back alley,” she set off yet another incidence of the stagecraft that passes for racial discourse in this country, with a tragic moment followed by the requisite scenes of accusation, remorse and demands for the protagonist’s head, all backed by a chorus of conflicting voices echoing to the rafters.

There were plenty of soliloquies but distressingly little dialogue and no catharsis.  For her part Tilghman was held accountable through a public scolding by the punditocracy and a two-week suspension by her employer; but for me, there’s another, far more interesting character in this drama – Tiger Woods. . . .

Whether Woods likes it or not, the episode serves to remind him, and everyone else, that regardless of how he attempts to transcend race with his accomplishments on the golf course, he can never fully escape his status as a person of color.

Much the way the fried-chicken-and-collard-greens joke Fuzzy Zoeller made at the 1997 Masters pushed Woods into the role of African-American Golfer, Tilghman’s gaffe reinforces his heritage and its burdens, lumping Tiger in with the estimated 5,000 men who were lynched in America between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s. . . .

For his part Tiger was quick to forgive and forget, saying through his agent, Mark Steinberg, that the incident was a “nonissue” and later releasing a statement that said, “Regardless of the choice of words used, we know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments.”

Rarely does the individual who delivers a racist epithet mean to offend.  The child who points does not intend to hurt someone’s feelings.  The parent who speaks in hushed tones purposely attempts not to insult.  For those raised in a world where in the privacy of a home, unkind comments in reference to people of color abound, such assertions seem sound.  Empathy escapes those who are not victim to the wrath of whites.  

Anglos do not understand how a seemingly innocent statement can slice an African-American  to the core.  

To suggest that a successful Black man might need to be put in his place, or lynched, is to acknowledge a truth that is always apparent to an African-American gentleman or lady.  A dark-brown-complexioned person who is perceived as one who does not know his or her station can expect to be reminded regularly, he or she is not equal to whites.  

Decidedly, a dark-skin man or woman may do well in school or in the work place.  A gentleman or a lovely lady may excel beyond all belief.  A few elite Afro-Americans might be invited to live among Caucasians in an all white neighborhood, even in a Sundown Town.  A token or two is always welcome.  One with fame, fortune, and finesse may actually be appreciated.  After all, a community must make a good impression.  No locality would wish to be labeled intolerant, just as a parent, or child, does not desire to discriminate aloud.  Consider cities in the Northern region of the United States.  These humble townships have long maintained a noble image, false as it maybe.

Outside the traditional South-states historically dominated by slavery, where sundown towns are rare-probably a majority of all incorporated places kept out African Americans. . . .

Ironically, the traditional South has almost no sundown towns.  Mississippi, for instance, has no more than 6, mostly mere hamlets, while Illinois has no fewer than 456.

Appearances are a lovely illusion.  Indeed, the presence of a Black person in a white world can be wrought with peril.  Driving While Black is a common crime. Even so, in an automobile, there is some protection for the brownish-purple complexioned person passing through a predominantly Anglo section of town.  If a Black man, or women, were to walk alone in an alley, in an affluent area, or in a slum, unaccompanied by an entourage, his or her life could be in danger.  Tiger Woods, [Michel Jordan, Denzel Washington, Venus and Serena Williams,] in casual clothes, without the cameras, or a gold plated golf club to identify him, could easily become a casualty of racial chauvinism.  Anglos, when alone or amongst an allied group of racists, are not colorblind.  Nor are they colormuted.  Whites will see, and say, as they truly believe.  Indeed, if a successful man or woman, whose facial features, and color, are not characteristic of a Caucasian, they may well find themselves in a position to be attacked.  In all likelihood, a Black person will be assaulted.  

At times, the barbs will be verbal.  On occasion, physical jabs will be offered.  Perchance, a Black person may suffer a slight.  Most who react to ‘race’ are subtle in their approach.  However, it is rare when a white American does not express the bias that has been building for centuries sooner or later.  What simmers and stews within eventually will come to a boil.  The pain that hate gives rise to will spill out.  As a culture, when we pretend to be colorblind, and act on colormutedness, we give no air to what is real.  Racism has caused us to rot from within.

Intellectually, Anglos know that to diminish the worth of those whose complexion is a brownish-black, to scorn or snub an African-American merely because their appearance is considered less “acceptable,” or to suggest that someone of color might be lynched is outrageous.  Yet, as long as Americans refuse to acknowledged the roots of racism, and recognize their own bigotry, intolerance will flourish.  If conversations are hushed, as they have been in this year alone, what we have witnessed will continue to burgeon.

Within days of the Tilghman incident, Golf Week Magazine glorified the schism.  The sportscaster and her employer were the cover story or were meant to be.  So much for these intentions, be they ill-willed or wise.

Golfweek Noose Elicits Strong Reaction

By Doug Ferguson

The Associated Press

Friday, January 18, 2008; 12:18 AM

The editor of Golfweek magazine said he was overwhelmed by negative reaction to the photo of a noose on the cover of this week’s issue, illustrating a story about the suspension of a Golf Channel anchor for using the word “lynch” in an on-air discussion about how to beat Tiger Woods.

“We knew that image would grab attention, but I didn’t anticipate the enormity of it,” Dave Seanor, vice president and editor of the weekly magazine, said from the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla. . . .

“Look at the executive suites at the PGA Tour, or the USGA, or the PGA of America. There are very, very few people of color there,” he said.  “This is a situation in golf where there needs to be more dialogue. And when you get more dialogue, people don’t want to hear it, and they brush it under the rug. This is a source of a lot of pushback.” . . .

Asked if he regretted the cover, Seanor paused before answering.

“I wish we could have come up with something that made the same statement but didn’t create as much negative reaction,” he said.  “But as this has unfolded, I’m glad there’s dialogue.  Let’s talk about this, and the lack of diversity in golf.”

Golfweek Editor Seanor may have thought the conversation vital; however, the mainstream, the average Joe and Joanna, the persons in power, and those who have none, would rather not discuss the disparity that envelops us.  Remember, etiquette is essential.  Colormuteness and colorblindness are cool.  Those who do not heed these calls are not.  Editor, Dave Seanor was replaced one day after a racially insensitive graphic, a noose, ‘graced’ the cover of Golfweek.

Any lack of compassion, when public, can cause quite a controversy.  When the same deficit is subtle, there are few problems, that is, if the offender’s skin is pinkish in color.  This contrast is sharply evident in this election season, just as it was in Elementary School.  Our Presidential candidates and political Parties, like Mom and Dad, endorse colorblindness and colormuteness.  The electorate embraces a truce that prohibits colorful conversations.  

When race relations are discussed, the Democrats wish to appear more compassionate than the Conservatives.  While it may be a tad true that the Democrats did better for Black America than the Republicans have, still, every Administration since America became a nation, did not authentically embrace equality.  The statistics, even when improvement is apparent, reveal an awful truth.

The Conservative Agenda: Serving African Americans?

By Tim Westrich and Amanda Logan

Center For American Progress

January 17, 2008

How have African Americans fared since conservatives have been in charge of the economy? Not very well.  Their increases across key economic indicators have been slower under Bush as compared to the 1990s.  Here’s a look at the numbers:

African Americans’ median income declined by an average of 1.6 percent per year under the current administration.

In 2006, African Americans’ median income was $32,132, which is actually $2,603 lower than their median income of $34,735 (in 2006 dollars) in 2000. This is an annualized average growth rate of -1.6 percent. In contrast, this number increased at an annual average growth rate of 3.2 percent from 1992 to 2000. And African Americans’ median income is still substantially lower than Whites: In 2006, their median income was $32,132, as compared to $52,432 for Whites.

Under Bush, the percent of African Americans without health insurance has increased from 18.5 percent to 20.5 percent.

In 2006, 7.9 million African Americans were not covered by health insurance. The rate of African Americans not covered by health insurance increased by an annual average percent point change of 0.30 between 2000 and 2006. This is a much different picture compared to the 1990s. From 1992 to 2000, the number of uninsured African Americans decreased from 20.1 percent to 18.5 percent, an average annual percent point change of -0.20.

The employment to population ratio for African Americans has declined faster than that of the Whites under the current administration.

In 2007, the employment to population ratio – the percentage of the civilian population that is employed-for African Americans stood at 58.4 percent compared to 63.6 percent for white Americans. Between 2000 and 2006, the employment to population ratio for African Americans declined by an average of – 0.4 percent each year after increasing by 0.8 percent on average between 1992 and 2000.  The employed share of the African-American population grew faster than the employed share of the White population throughout the 1990s, but has shrunk faster than Whites since then.

The increase in African-American homeownership has been slower under Bush than the 1990s.

The homeownership rate for Whites increased three times faster than the homeownership rate for African Americans between 2000 and 2006. During this time, the homeownership rate for African Americans increased by an average annual growth rate of just 0.1, from 47.2 percent to 47.9 percent, whereas Whites’ homeownership rate increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.3 percent. This trend is in part because African Americans have actually seen their rate decline since 2004. Compare this to the 1990s, when African Americans’ homeownership rate increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.8 percent from 1994 to 2000. Whites’ rate was 0.6 percent during this time (homeownership data by race are not available before 1994).

More African Americans are in poverty under Bush.

More African Americans were in poverty in 2006 than in 2000, just after we saw a vast improvement the 1990s. In 2006, 24.2 percent of African-American individuals were in poverty. Compare this to 2000, when 22.5 percent were below the poverty line, a percentage point change of 0.28. Poverty among African Americans decreased substantially from 1992 to 2000, going from 33.4 percent to 22.5 percent, or an annual average percent point change of -1.36.

The number of impoverished persons of color frequently increases.  At times, it decreases.  On occasion, it remains the same.  Yet, no matter who is in the Oval Office, Americans worry less about the fact that the dark skinned among us are more likely to live in poorer neighborhoods.  African-Americans are less likely to have adequate Health Care.  Doctors discriminate.

Schools are segregated along racial lines.  Citizens of this country understand that a person who lives on the wrong side of the railroad tracks is probably Black.  Sundown Towns may have begun to allow Afro-Americans in; however, these persons better realize, they have their place.  Dark-skin people are encouraged to believe they are powerless to create genuine change, and Anglo Americans like it that way.

There was hardly a rumble when the former First Lady, and Presidential aspirant explained, “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Clinton continued. “It took a president to get it done.”  This statement seemed reasonable to those who have deterred the dreams within the Black community.  Rival candidate, and Senator Obama softly declared the comment “unfortunate and ill-advised”; nonetheless, he too was willing to remain colorblind and colormute.  A Black person knows better than to incite a riot.  African-Americans, in the childhood are taught as well as whites.

In this country, citizens of all colors accept the truth and dare not drastically change it.  It is for this reason the electorate is barely disturbed by statements from a former President, his aides, or allies.  Even prominent Black Americans, grateful for small favors, and Presidential appointments, will stand by the side of a spouse and a former Commander-In-Chief when he states bigotry is believable and logical.

Voting for president along racial and gender lines “is understandable because people are proud when someone who they identify with emerges for the first time,” the former president told a Charleston audience while campaigning for his wife. . . .

Bill Clinton said civil rights leaders Andrew Young and John Lewis have defended his wife.  “They both said that Hillary was right, and the people who attacked her were wrong, and that she did not play the race card, but they did,” he said. . . .

Clinton also told about 100 people in Charleston that he was proud of the Democratic Party for having a woman and a black candidate.

For the former President, colorblindness and colormuteness helped to heal a division that he now justifies.  In America, racism, and chauvinism, are not only acceptable, these characteristics are considered a source of pride, and not a sign of prejudice.  Americans would rather be smug [and self-important] than address the sad fact people are not treated equally.  

However, the message is mixed.  On one hand, the Clintons are prideful of the support they receive from the African-American population.  On the other, the two Clinton’s conclude Blacks will automatically congregate around their brethren.  When people do not admit to the color they see and will not hear of it, there is ample confusion.

The puzzlement continues.  As votes are tallied, the temptation is to discount a rival’s win, or blame it on the color barrier, the one that supposedly does, or is it, does not exist.  When a Presidential aspirant or her husband speaks of the race [to the White House], the implicit untouchable topic of “race,” is tenderly tackled.

In Charleston [South Carolina, during the 2008 primaries] last week, Bill Clinton said, “They are getting votes, to be sure, because of their race or gender, and that’s why people tell me that Hillary doesn’t have a chance of winning here.”

Again, Americans must decide, does a person’s race make a difference?  Can people of color perform miracles as an Anglo might? In this country, we still argue whether we have seen this occur in the past.

Hillary Clinton reminds white Americans of the accepted wisdom, even a great and honorable Black leader, such as Reverend, Doctor Martin Luther King Junior could not “get the job done.”  This prominent person of color needed the white man [or woman] in the White House to achieve what had never been accomplished before.  Senator Clinton’s words help cultivate the belief, a Caucasian, has the power to change the nation or make dreams come true.  Americans cannot know with certainty if this is true for even as some select Black persons climb, the old adage is reinforced.

“Race doesn’t matter!” the crowd at Obama’s victory celebration in Columbia chanted last night, and when he spoke, the senator elaborated on the theme.  He said his victory disproved those who argue that people “think, act and even vote within the categories that supposedly define us” — that blacks will not vote for a white candidate and vice versa.

“I did not travel around this state and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina.  I saw South Carolina,” he said.  The election, he said, “is not about rich versus poor or young versus old, and it’s not about black versus white. This election is about the past versus the future.”

Americans wonder what will the future bring.  Can the United States, as a country, change so significantly.  After all, although voters are older and hopefully wiser, each was trained as a toddler.  Perhaps, we must go back to school, to begin at the beginning.  It may be that what we witness among adults could be quelled in the early years.  Conventionally, in Elementary School, and on into Secondary Schools children were separated or tracked.  In a desire to create a more balanced educational environment, the racial divide can be more apparent.

Beth C. Rubin, an assistant education professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., describes how a school system’s efforts to end tracking-the practice of grouping students in separate classes by academic ability-inadvertently stigmatized minority students in one high school classroom. In that class, a teacher’s careful efforts to balance student work groups by race, gender, and ability enraged an African-American student.

“You trying to get all the black kids away from each other, before we cause a nuclear holocaust!” the student exclaimed. Meanwhile, the white students in the class, most of whom were high-achieving, relegated the minority students in their groups to roles that gave them little opportunity to hone their academic skills, according to Ms. Rubin’s account.

“I guess I’m asking teachers to think about race a little differently, and not so much about having to have kids equally distributed among groups,” Ms. Rubin said in an interview.  “And also,” she added, “to think of group work as skill-building over the course of the year.

Americans are reminded each day, integration without conversation does little to create balance.  People must not merely live together in neighborhoods, or work with one another in schools, or in offices.  We must learn to be open, honest, and willing to work through our differences.  What we do not understand will destroy us.  

A word, a look, will be interpreted through our personal background and experience.  If you are Black, a criticism might mean, “Get Back!”  If white, the same statement might be construed as, “It will be all right.”  If we remain colormute and colorblind, if we never bother to learn who each of us is, we can be certain, change will not come.  This is evident in numerous studies.  Our expectations rule.

Balance is also key to the kind of instructional climate teachers should provide in racially diverse classrooms, [communities or campaigns] according to Ronald F. Ferguson, the director of Harvard’s Achievement Gap Initiative . . .

Geoffrey L. Cohen, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, recommends that, in offering students critical feedback, teachers convey the idea that the criticism reflects a high standard, and that they believe in the student’s ability to reach that standard . . .

Mr. Cohen has found that such messages can be more motivating for minority students, who are often wary of the feedback they get from teachers, than when educators overpraise them or give the same feedback to all students.

“Being a member of a stereotyped group puts one in a sort of bubble in which one can’t be certain whether the critical feedback comes from bias against their group or a teacher’s motivation to help one improve,” Mr. Cohen said in an interview.  “In general, though, whites can enter a school situation thinking, ‘Teachers here believe in me.'”

For many Black Americans, an educator is frequently another white person who works from a premise of fear or futility.  Too often, a teacher seems pompous or pretentious.  It is not uncommon for an African-American to feel patronized when in the presence of an Anglo authority figure.  A comment meant to express care, can be heard as contrived.  

Every individual, regardless of color, has a history.  Experience teaches us more than a professional mentor might.  It is hard to trust that a person might be colorblind, if that is even possible, if they are colormute.

As long as Americans choose to avoid the discussion of diversity, to deny differences, and to reject hat our distinctive appearances enhance our experience, then life will be as it is and was.  Change cannot come.  Admittedly, Anglos are [color] blind.  Apparently, Caucasians, and even Blacks prefer to be [color] mute.  This must end if we are to evolve.

When Americans, teachers, preachers, or Presidential hopefuls, do not empathetically approach the topic of intolerance then, as a society, we will continue to clash and crumble.  We may wish to hide from what haunts us.  However, there is a price to pay for racial discrimination and the income inequity we accept.

Economically and emotionally, bigotry is  expensive.   Americans can see the cost of dilapidated schools.  Residents in this Northern region of the globe experience what occurs when students do not have the opportunity to soar.  Employment possibilities are limited.  Without a satisfactory job, homeownership is not feasible.  Even apartment life is not cheap.  In a culture that creates illiteracy, the streets may provide the only shelter.  

A society that houses hordes of those with dark skin in slums does not truly serve us equally.  Citizens of the United Sates might understand, when a person is poor, as too many Black people are, they cannot afford adequate Health Care.  Hence, everyone, the affluent, and those who struggle but survive, contribute to the costs an ill and impoverished America creates.  

In this country, in our local communities, during this political campaign, if Americans remain colorblind and colormute, nothing will change.  The possibility that conditions will worsen is one we must acknowledge.

Barack Obama may be correct.  Differences exist.  However, they need not divide us.  Conversations about colorblindness and colormuteness can make his dream, our shared hope, come true.  Let us imagine that one day, this vision will be ours together.  As one people, united, perchance in time Americans will say . . .

The choice . . . is not between regions, religions, or genders. It’s not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white.

It’s about the past versus the future.

It’s about whether we settle for the same divisions, distractions, and drama . . . or whether we reach for  . . . common sense, and innovation – a shared sacrifice and shared prosperity . . .

When I hear that we’ll never overcome the racial divide . . . I think . . . Don’t tell me we can’t change.

Yes, we can change.

Yes, we can heal this nation.

Yes we can seize our future.

Anglo-Americans must no longer hold their children tightly when in the company of Black man or woman.  Pinkish people cannot continue to caution their progeny, to tell them they must pretend to be colorblind, and authentically become colormute.  If we are to ever heal, Caucasians in this country must mentor their offspring to believe, colors are beautiful.  Americans need to see the tone of a person’s skin, to speak of an individual’s race, and the realities without criticism.  If this country is going to change, if the United States expects to excel, then, we, the people must truly be, and act as equals.

Resources For Racism . . .