Not in my backyard



Explosive OBAMA anger at a McCain-Palin rally!

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

~ Bible.  I John 4:20

Not in my backyard.  Not in my neighborhood.  Not on street corners in my community.  Certainly, not amongst my friends, and never in my family! These are the cries heard ’round America.  In rural regions, in urban boroughs, in the suburbs, and in the city proper the public clamors, “We are not colorblind.”  The defense voiced in earlier days is a thought from the past.  In the United States of 2008, people see shades.  Skin, pitch as coal, casts a shadow.  Deep-seated bigotry is displayed on the surface.  Today, racism is not only rampant; it is visible on every crossroad.  Please consider the campaign trail.  Intolerance is evident in the Presidential Election, 2008.

Secular humanist intent on political win and pious, religious persons, who think themselves right (or righteous) believe they have reason to fear their brethren.  Presidential hopeful Barack Obama is Black.  The public may have been aware of this without much prompting.  However, chances are the American people would have been polite.  Citizens in this country pride themselves on decorum.  Yet, with a bit of encouragement people in the States can be easily persuaded to forget their etiquette.  

Individuals and crowds can be coerced to remember their fear for fellow beings.  If “that (other) one” is distinctive, dark, and has a strange name, so much the better.  A person or political campaign can capitalize on the differences.  An exhortation offered can cause an explosion.  Throngs can be inflamed.  Enter Sarah Palin and her confederate John McCain.  The two exclaim when they shriek or speak of their opponent Barack Obama, “Not in my backyard.”  Republican followers concur.  The hordes holler as the Party leaders explain, “He is not one of us.”  The Democratic hopeful, for those who will not vote for a Black man, is the source of hatred.

The Illinois Senator was not born to be brutalized.  However, people of his brownish-purplish tone are tormented.  Those paler in hue have learned to hate, and work to denigrate.  Pinkish persons are taught to negate the power of a individual who, by birth wears a brown-black veneer.  Persons whose flesh is not light are also engendered to exhibit trepidation; however, in the United States, these individuals may have less authority.  Frequently, Anglos [and African Americans] deny that they have learned these lessons.  However, human as they are, many Americans, are apprehensive when confronted with the unfamiliar.  

Citizens in the States have acquired conventional wisdom; be scared of someone so unique; the intensity of the disdain felt and expressed is deeper since Barack Obama’s complexion is ebony in color.  

The reaction to the words Sarah Palin and John McCain emit is as expected.  People abhor what or who is unlike them.  Citizens have been trained to react, to resent, and to express rage when faced with the unknown.  Frequently, the average American is asked by Obama’s political adversary, “Who is Barack Obama?”  Surely, the implication is, he is not one of us.  Senator Obama does not look like those in our neighborhood, in our family; nor is he similar to our friends.  However, this is not said specifically.

The answers offered by John McCain and Sarah Palin have subtly incited intolerance.  While the Republican Party Presidential nominee delicately dances during discussions of culture clashes, his surrogates, and of course Sarah, stride confidently into dangerous debates.  The reality of racial division is ramped up.  Any statement that might awaken apprehension amongst the white majority masses is fair, and now famously in the forefront of stump speeches.

At two McCain rallies last week, individuals introducing the candidate referred to the Democratic nominee as “Barack Hussein Obama,” emphasizing his middle name.  Former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating called him a “man of the street.”

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, said Obama was “palling around with terrorists,” a reference to his association with the 1960s radical William Ayers, and a turn of phrase that critics said was racially loaded.

In the age of attacks on the Twin Towers, alarm for any association that reminds Americans of the foreign forces that caused the World Trade Center to fall will be perceived as problematic.  This supposed connection coupled with the whisper campaign that began long ago, Barack Obama is a Muslim . . . even if he is not and never was, has been an effective tool used to annihilate the Democratic Presidential aspirant.  After all, he must be destroyed.  He is not like the friends, family, or neighbors of average American’s.  He is elite, and did the Republican candidates mention, Barack Obama is Black.  The esteemed Illinois Senator will not be seen in the backyards of Joe or Jane Doe.

However, signs with Barack Obama’s name are displayed in front yards throughout the country.  This alone causes much concern within communities and a campaign scared that a scholar such as Barack Obama might become President.

One would hope the intent among respectable Republican rivals was to destroy a political promotion and not the man himself; however, there is infinite reason to believe the rough stuff is used to do more than motivate voters to move towards the Republican ticket.  Americans need only listen to the words of the self-proclaimed “pit bull,” Vice Presidential challenger, Sarah Palin.  Days ago, in Florida, the defiant maverick declared her objective and her offense.

“Okay, so Florida, you know that you’re going to have to hang onto your hats,” Sarah Palin told a rally of a few thousand here this morning, “because from now until Election Day it may get kind of rough.”

You betcha.  And the person dishing out the roughest stuff at the moment is Sarah Palin.

“I was reading my copy of the New York Times the other day,” she said.

“Booooo!” replied the crowd.

“I knew you guys would react that way, okay,” she continued.  “So I was reading the New York Times and I was really interested to read about Barack’s friends from Chicago.” . . .

“Boooo!” said the crowd.

“And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,'” she continued.

“Boooo!” the crowd repeated.

“Kill him!” proposed one man in the audience.

Days later, pumped and primed, another McCain/Palin advocate, this time amongst the poised population in Pennsylvania, shouted “Kill him!”  The calls of “terrorist” are frequently heard at Republican rallies each time Barack Obama’s name is uttered.  The venom is vicious, as are actions on American avenues.

Those who do not have physical access to the dark-skinned Presidential hopeful,  Senator Obama, express their fury in other ways.  Some overtly ferocious; a few covertly cruel.

Within a somewhat posh population, in south Florida, a fairly prosperous family placed an Obama sign on their lawn.  Proud of the candidate they would cast ballots for on Election Day, the female in the household felt a need to express their conviction.  The affluent adult trusted in a neighborhood such as hers, even those who did not feel as they did would certainly respect their right to revere a well-educated, accomplished, and “articulate” Presidential aspirant.  The woman could not begin to imagine the placard would be burned.  Another incident was reported in New Jersey.

Obama sign defaced in Montclair

(by Tanya Drobness

Montclair Times

October 02, 2008

A Montclair woman woke up Sunday morning to find that her Barack Obama lawn placard was spread across her car and defaced with a pile of dog feces.

Vandals yanked the advocacy sign out of the Montclair Avenue lawn and wrecked it between 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, and 7 a.m. the next day, police said.

“She just woke up in the morning and noticed the sign had been moved,” said Alex Russoniello, referring to the reaction of his partner, Maryanne Solensky, who has been living in the home for 30 years.

The sign and one of its metal posts was found on the windshield of a Volkswagen Golf that was sitting in the victim’s driveway, police said.

The couple removed the feces with a newspaper delivery wrap and washed down the sign.

They put it back up that same day.

The Boca Raton resident also re-placed her sign.  In less than a day, Ms Pearson-Martinez positioned a new Obama sign in her yard.  She also painstakingly inscribed a message for the person who maliciously defaced the first banner.  The lovely lady wrote on a placard attached to the bottom of her newer Obama poster, “You can burn my sign, but you won’t stop my vote.”  

However, it seems some would wish to torch a ballot or a man named Barack.  Few argue that the rage expressed is more fervent for the face of the candidate is charcoal in hue.  It is easier to find enthusiastic hatred for a person whose complexion is dark.  This truth was witnessed, and ignited, in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, and other states, near a week ago.  Tempers flared and the Republican candidates fueled the fire.  Unfettered taunts were frequently hard at McCain/Palin events.

A sense of grievance spilling into rage has gripped some GOP events as McCain supporters see his presidential campaign lag against Barack Obama. They’re making it personal, against the Democrat. Shouts of “traitor,” “terrorist,” “treason,” “liar,” and even “off with his head” have rung from the crowd at McCain and Sarah Palin rallies, and gone unchallenged by them. . . .

When a visibly angry McCain supporter in Waukesha, Wis., on Thursday told the candidate “I’m really mad” because of “socialists taking over the country,” McCain stoked the sentiment. “I think I got the message,” he said. “The gentleman is right.”

Is it correct to cruelly condemn a man or a woman; is it proper to stoke a fire or incite fury for a person.  Americans might remember hate is taught.  Humans are not born to disdain.  People learn to love passionately or to loathe avidly.  Differences in appearance can provide a target for intolerance.  Not in my backyard, neighborhood, community, amongst my closest friends, or in my family is the racial retreat, the rant of those who rather be at odds than be united in the States.

I think that hate is a thing, a feeling, that can only exist where there is no understanding.

~ Tennessee Williams [Author] Forward to Sweet Bird of Youth

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself.  What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.

~ Hermann Hesse [Author] From Demian

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.

People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love,

for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.


~ Nelson Mandela [President of South Africa] Autobiography

References to racism . . .

Race Relations; Reflections, Realizations, Reactions, and Rejections

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copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

“Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.

Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government.

Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them.”


~ Thomas Jefferson  (Autobiography, 1821)

It was a Saturday morning, late in June.  The year was 2008.  In the background, radio broadcaster, Scott Simon could be heard.  The host of Weekend Edition offered his Reflections on Race and the Presidential Election. Alexander listened halfheartedly.  It was not that he was not interested in the topic; he is and he was.  Alex was distracted.  The gentleman glanced over at Donna, a young Jamaican woman he knows so well.  Donna’s skin is as Black as pitch coal and as rich as sweet crude.  She gracefully moves across the room.  He thinks of how he loves the way her hips sway to and fro.  Her voluptuous bosom fills the full cup of her brassiere.  As she bends down to feed his ailing cousin Anna, Alex reflects on how lovely the dark skinned woman is.  His sentiment is not sexual in nature.  Alexander is analytical.

As Alex watches the woman stir, he contemplates human nature.  Recent research fascinates the senior fellow.  For years, Alexander wondered what was the attraction to female breasts and beauty.  He recalled the article he reviewed days earlier, What Women Want (Maybe.) Alexander marveled as he appraised the study.  Rapt by the results as reported, “Looking at a naked man walking on the beach is about as exciting as looking at landscapes,” Alexander wonders of women, men, and how they relate.  How much of what occurs between the sexes is biological?  Are two-legged mammals acculturated?  Do we acquire opinions that then become habits?   Perhaps, had Alex’s attention been elsewhere he would have heard the words Scott Simon uttered as they drifted through the air.  Alexander might have stopped and sputtered as Journalist Simon mused, “How many people can there be who truly don’t know that Senator Obama is black – or care.”  

Alexander definitely knows Presidential hopeful Obama is African-American; and yes, he does care.  Alex would never express his anxiety as blatantly as thousands have.  Nor would he actually join a fellowship of known fanatics.  This white man, genteel in nature, cannot imagine why extremists react as they do.  For Alex, racial discrimination is not a source of pride.  He wonders if that is why much intolerance is hidden, neatly tucked away in the Internet.

Hate Groups’ Newest Target

White Supremacists Report an Increase in Visits to Their Web Sites

By Eli Saslow

Washington Post

Sunday, June 22, 2008; A06

Sen. Barack Obama‘s historic victory in the Democratic primaries, celebrated in America and across much of the world as a symbol of racial progress and cultural unity, has also sparked an increase in racist and white supremacist activity, mainly on the Internet, according to leaders of hate groups and the organizations that track them.

Neo-Nazi, skinhead, and segregationist groups have reported gains in numbers of visitors to their Web sites and in membership since the senator from Illinois secured the Democratic nomination June 3. His success has aroused a community of racists, experts said, concerned by the possibility of the country’s first black president.

“I haven’t seen this much anger in a long, long time,” said Billy Roper, a 36-year-old who runs a group called White Revolution in Russellville, Ark. “Nothing has awakened normally complacent white Americans more than the prospect of America having an overtly nonwhite president.” . . .

“The truth is, we’re finding an explosion in these kinds of hateful sentiments on the Net, and it’s a growing problem,” said Deborah Lauter, civil rights director for the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors hate group activity.  “There are probably thousands of Web sites that do this now.  I couldn’t even tell you how many are out there because it’s growing so fast.”

Granted, extremists do not represent the Grand Old Party, John McCain, or Alexander.  Nonetheless, Alex knows the rise in racist rhetoric demonstrates many care about the undeniable.  Our potential President is a Black man.  Alexander admits, he is not surprised by the speed with which the trend towards intolerance increased once Barack Obama become the presumptive nominee.  The lovely mild-mannered man recalls, Senator Obama was placed under the protection of the Secret Service Agency earlier than any Presidential aspirant had been.  This action, this election is unprecedented.

Alexander recalls the day he read the accounts in the newspaper; the United States Senator from Illinois began his bid for the Oval Office and almost immediately received threats on his life.  It was obvious, Barack Obama and his family were not safe.  Excessive concern for the candidate’s race was expressed.  Bullies observed Barack Obama is Black, and they did not like that.

Journalist Scott Simon might ruminate; these persons play on the fringe.  Fanatics are peripheral to the population.  However, the more moderate man, Alexander has watched as generations of white people exerted extreme power over Black people.  He was also well aware of how Caucasians hid the emotions that had an effect on their every exchange.  Alexander quietly avows on rare occasions, he too does not reveal what he truly feels when in the company of a person of color.

His relationship with Donna may illustrate, the illusive nature of race relations in America.  The two are friendly; they spend much time together.  However, neither feels particularly close to the other.  Each understands they are employer and employee.  Encounters occur for there is a need, physical, financial, practical, and personal only in the sense that when two people come together they cannot help but talk.  Still, a genuine emotional connection is forever elusive.  Neither wishes to create what is not comfortable.

Perhaps, the relationship that exists between Alexander and Donna explains why, the seventeen (17) million persons voted for Barack Obama in the primaries, may not if the realities of racism are emphasized before the general election.  Blacks and whites can come together when the commitment is tentative, but would pinkish persons want their daughters to marry someone that looks like Senator Obama.  Would Anglo Americans wish to place a Black man and his African-American family in the White House.  Could it be that countless who cast a ballot for Barack Obama during the primaries, struggle with the reality that he might become their President and ever so powerful.

Alexander asserts people can be polite when what they perceive to be a potential threat is less than pervasive.  However, Alex, who with great reluctance, voted for  Barack Obama  early in the election season, understands for possibly millions of American citizens, the idea of a Black man as President of the United States is perilous.  

He need only consider his own inner turmoil.  Alex understands what apparently escapes Mister Simon; people care what a color a person is.  The possibility that our President may be a Black is reason for concern.  Bethany grasps what her cousin continually contemplates.  She sees and hears that Alexander relates to the fear others express outwardly.  He is just a bit more refined when he articulates his distress.  A Black man, Barack Obama must not become President of the country he loves.  Alexander is not ready for such a radical transformation.  He often muses, “Why change?”  The man who has made much of his life says with a sigh, “What we have here in America is good.”  He does not trust that an African-American will have his interests at heart.

Alexander battles with what may become a brutal truth, a Black man might lead the nation, indeed, the world!  Animated and with much apprehension and angst, Alex’s wife Mary recounts what she says many assert.  “Barack Obama has an army.”  “I hear it is 2500 strong; maybe it was 25000,” Mary storms.  “You know they are angry people.”  She continues, “You heard what Michele Obama said did you not?” Energized by her own expertise Mary marvels and asks her audience to entertain; “The Obama’s live in a big house.  They have white servants.  Can you imagine that?”  .Implied in her statements, is what Mary says is conventional wisdom.  “Those people are vengeful.”  She reluctantly admits, perhaps, Americans have not treated Senator Obama’s ancestors well.  Nor have our contemporary Caucasian countrymen been kind to people of color.  She then adds, “You know he is Muslim and has ties to terrorist.”

Bethany wonders and asks aloud, “Where did you read this?”  Mary happily responds, confident her sources are credible, “I read it on the Internet.”  The younger cousin inquires might Mary share her references.  Bethany acquaints Mary with what she “knows” to be true.  However, Mary does not hear her. The want for other information wanes, if it was ever really there.

Mary, as her husband Alexander, is a registered Democrat.  Neither ever misses a vote.  For decades, Mary proudly worked at her local election polls.  From dawn until long after dusk she monitors what occurs within her precinct.

Alex does not acknowledge that he agrees with Mary.  Nor does he offer disagreement.  He merely remains absorbed in all that disturbs him personally.

For months Alex wrestled with the fact that as admirable as the candidate’s education might be, as calm as the demeanor of the aspirant is, even when under fire, Barack Obama is Black.  While Alex may wish to think of himself as colorblind and open-minded, he cannot help but question Barack Obama’s qualifications.  Frequently, in conversation, Alex couches his concern.  “The man does not have the necessary experience.”  However, on occasion, and only when in the company of Bethany, a relative who he fondly thinks of as a very good friend, Alex admits he is biased.

He has confessed; it is difficult for him to plead guilty to this truth even to himself.  Alex recognizes he is intolerant of those whose skin is dark.  He fears Black persons he encounters on the street.  He suspects, those whose cocoa brown complexion glistens in the light, engage in criminal activity.  Perchance, had Alexander harkened to the words Scott Simon offered days earlier he would have engaged in a conversation in that moment.    He had many thoughts on the topic.  However, when the Journalist spoke Alexander was absorbed elsewhere.  He pondered, who and what is Donna to him.

Alexander says he does not think of Donna as a servant.  Yet, he recognizes she is an economic slave.  In an abstract way, he is her master.

Donna is an authentic person, equal to Alex in every way, except for the fact that she is not.  The wondrous white man may never wish to divulge as three (3) in ten (10) Americans did.  He is biased.  In a very recent Washington Post – ABC News poll, people acknowledged a prejudice.  Alexander may be inclined to think the Black women with who he engages, or any person of color, is perhaps less profound than a Caucasian certainly is.  For this carefree chap, who openly chats with many a Black person, the race of an individual creates an impression, although he appreciates this is often unconscious.  

Alexander assumes, since he frequently converses with people whose epidermis is the color of bittersweet chocolate he knows what it means to be an African-American, Jamaican, Haitian, or just dark in skin tone.  While he may honor an individual Black person who he associates with, none of the labels Alex would apply to this group of people as a whole is good.  Much as he tries to be tempered when he associates with people purplish-brown in hue, some would say Alexander is a bigot, a well-camouflaged racist.

Most may not see the subtleties of Alexander’s prejudice.  Likely, he does not realize how deep his predispositions are.  Alexander does not think of himself as intolerant.  Perchance, he would be among the fifty-three percent in the Washington Post – ABC News survey who presume race relations in America are superior.  

In truth, Alex is a bit more realistic.  He realizes there are problems.  He has said himself, prejudice is prevalent.  However, he might quickly add, skin color does not cloud his vision.  Alex believes he is merely selective in his associations. Perchance, he adopted his parents’ opinions, or habits.  Alex is not naïve enough to think nature keeps the races separate and unequal.  He only knows what is and always was, at least as long as he recalls.

The self-proclaimed aware and astute fellow believes there are a few special persons, no matter the skin color.  He just happens to associate more with those fair of face.  That does not mean he excludes African-Americans from his life.  

The ones that once worked for him when he owned his own business were wonderful men . . . as far as he could tell.  They were polite.  The delivery drivers did their work.  These burly men, brown as the bark on a weathered oak tree, never complained.  There was Natalie, and Josephine; they nursed his mother to health.  Certainly, Donna is a delight.

Donna knows her place.  She fills a necessary space in Alexander and Anna’s life.  The purplish hue cast by the beautiful brown complexion of this woman ensures that she will never be seen or treated as a peer, at least not by the cousins who employ her.  When the white man and woman gaze upon Donna, they forever see her as a Black person.  Thankfully, they say, she is not an African-American.  Those people cannot be trusted.

“Just ask her,” Alex says to his very close “friend” Bethany.  “Donna will tell you.”  “American Blacks are lazy,” he continues.  “They do drugs.”  Donna says, “It is true.  Those Black people born in this country just collect welfare.”  She speaks of her son, Christopher.  “Look at him; he was awarded a full scholarship.”  Beaming with pride, the Health Care Aide reminds everyone in the room, when Christopher was a Senior in High School, he was one of three, nationwide selected to attend a prestigious college.  Her son, she boasts, is motivated.  He is a scholar, not like those “Black boys” native to America.

Alexander listens and nods.  Donna affirms his opinions are not racist.  He has reason to believe as he does.  “Did you hear what Donna said,” he asks his companion.  “See.  She knows.”  Exasperated and in a desire to prove his point, Alex points to Donna and reminds his confidant, “She is a woman of color!”  

The conversation began innocently enough.  Alexander wanted to explain why he could not in good conscious cast a ballot for Barack Obama.  The older white man had done his duty in the primaries.  Perhaps, his vote for Senator Obama affirmed he is not a bigot.  Alexander actually did vote for the Senator from Illinois in the Spring of the year.  He hesitantly speaks of how he had to.

The World War II veteran had no other choice.  No, he did not approve of Barack Obama then.  Nor does he condone crass humor as was exhibited at the Texas Republican Convention just days before Scott Simon made his comment.

Mr. Alcox said he made 12 of the pins after seeing a comic strip where Barack Obama was standing in front of a sign saying “The White House,” with the building behind him.  Mr. Obama is depicted thinking, “That’s the first thing we’ll change.” . . .

The offending pin stated: “If Obama is president . . . Will we still call it the White House?” . . .

“Obviously, it’s been offensive to people. It was not meant to be that way. We’re into humor – not racism,” Mr. Alcox said.

Regardless of the intent, many were offended.  Bigotry only begets belly laughs from other bigots.  The object of intolerance, if given the opportunity can speak to what eludes the prejudice.  However, in a nation where an esteemed broadcaster expresses a wishful belief as truth, no one “cares” what color Barack Obama, a Black man is, few take the time to probe beyond what they think correct.  Americans are not colorblind as they claim to be.  They are colormute and hence, frequently insensitive.  On the rare occasion when Blacks and Caucasians speak of racism much is resolved, empathy expands.

(Mr. Alcox) said after having a conversation with a black man who called him about the blog post, he came to understand more about the nerve he had hit.

Sadly, prior to this incident it seems the vendor did as Alexander does.  While cordial and conversant with people of every color, bias against those of color is not typically, if ever the topic.  He did discuss the elections with Donna.  He even asked her what she thought of Barack Obama.  “You remember Bethany.  Donna thinks Black Americans are worthless.”

That is why Alexander was able to do as he did in good conscience.  Earlier in the year, Alex went to the polls as a good citizen does and was handed a Democratic ballot.  He is a registered Democrat; however, only in the primaries does he usually vote for someone in his Party.  

Before, the presumptive Presidential aspirants were assured, Alex was certain he would have, voted for Mitt Romney.  He is white . . . (Did he say that aloud) highly educated; he comes from good stock.  His father and he were successful Governors.  More importantly, each accrued ample wealth.  Alexander is a very affluent man, self-made.  He admires such qualities, that is unless the erudite, esteemed man, or woman is Black, although, Alex is careful never to say that directly, not even when with Bethany.  He is embarrassed by his bigotry.  

At times, he does softly state what he hopes will remain a secret.  He does not wish for others to know what he is unwilling to acknowledge to himself.  Still, almost inaudibly he has told Bethany.  He has little tolerance for people whose complexions are dark.  Alexander hopes he can trust his truest thoughts and feelings with his cousin and best friend Bethany.  History tells him, with her, he is safe.  The relationship is one of reciprocal reverence.  Bethany shares her heart, soul, and all her stories with Alex.  The two learn of what they never imagined when together.

They also share a common bond, many in fact.  Most significant in this election season, Alex and Bethany each harbored much disdain for Hillary Clinton.  Neither struggle with the idea of a woman President.  It was only that woman!  Bethany understands why Alex did not vote for the New York Senator.  “Bobby,’ as she likes to be called, could not consider the former First Lady either.

However, Bobby remains unconvinced that Alexander would chose to cast a ballot for Barack Obama when it counts.  She recalls the day Alexander quietly revealed, “Maybe I am prejudice.”  Bethany had helped Alex to realize what he never considered before.  As a child, she, who is also pinkish in color, was raised with a Black family as much as her own.  She has never felt as though she was Caucasian.  This feminine Anglo American notices what many white persons do not, she is intensely cognizant of color.  Bobby, unlike countless whose skin is light is very aware of what is whispered to her.  What may not mean much to those who think themselves colorblind

When with a white acquaintance Bobby will feel a tug on her arm.  “Let us cross the street,” the friend says suddenly.  Bobby wonders; why might her colleague seem so distraught.  She looks ahead and the answer is revealed.  A group of Black men appeared up the avenue.

Bethany hears the hushed tones.  In a casual conversation, when a person of a particular color is identified, clarification is also offered.  “He or she is Black you know.”  This classification is meant to explain why that individual might think, say, do, feel, or be as he or she is.

A brilliant African-American is not merely a gifted and talented artist, academic, athlete, or author.  He or she is “Negro” first.  Then, the deftness is discussed.  “Actually,” the inference is, “the fact that this individual is a person of color makes them more exceptional.”

Most of us recall a cavalier comment offered by a prominent, practiced politician little more than a year ago.  Delaware Senator, and former Presidential spirant, said of his friend, Barack Obama, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” Biden said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”  Of, course the remark was followed by an apology. “I really regret that some have taken totally out of context my use of the world “clean.” The sorrowful Senator explained.   “My mother has an expression: clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack.”  Neither the regret, nor revelation, would lessen the blow of bigotry.  If a person is Black, he or she may bow and accept what has become too familiar.  An Anglo may never notice such remarks.  Extremely offensive evaluations make sense when they are all you have ever heard.

Barbara Trepagnier, Sociology Professor at Texas State University-San Marcos has written much on the subject of Silent Racism.  She speaks of the culture of consciousness that evades many white Americans.  Ms Trepagnier, on the topic of careless commentary reflected on another incident.  She was reminded of Trent Lott and the callous statement he offered at former segregationist Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday celebration.  Then two, the orator offered a defense.  The Sociologist declared . . .

“I argue when we say things off the cuff, that’s what we really mean,” Trepagnier said. “His comments weren’t taken out of context.”

Her book contends that “silent racism” fosters routine actions not recognized by an individual as racist, but upholds the status quo.

Trepagnier says that this form of superiority remains prevalent in American society, and is a major reason African-Americans continue to struggle. Blacks are outperformed by their white counterparts in most social demographics, including factors such as education, employment, and income. She says that whites that deny the existence of racism or dismiss it as unimportant are often protecting white privilege.

Trepagnier says that some whites become detached from the race issue while others are so concerned with it that they become apprehensive about it, avoiding even the mention of the topic. In both cases, this passive stance silently provides the racist actions of others an endorsement, or worse, encouragement.

Alexander’s confidant Bethany does not negate what is too obvious to her.  Nor does she mindlessly wish to advance such postures.  Bobby shares her stories and feelings with Alex, if only to further his awareness.  

When Bethany is accompanied on a dinner date, she feels the stares when her cohort is a man of color.  The conversation with a server differs dependent on her company.  People at the next table are more likely to engage the couple when Bobby is with a white man.  When in a restaurant of quality, Bethany observes if there are many or any Black persons about, they are often the hired help.  Rarely is the clientele shades of purplish brown or Black in hue.  Mostly, people are light; skin tones are parchment in color.

When in the mall together, strolling down the street, in the bank, or other place of business, Bobby and Alex see numerous African-Americans.  Contrary to Scott Simon’s contention, each of them cares to recognize these persons are Black.  

Alex intentionally associates with people of color.  He hopes to work through the habitual bigotry that bothers him.  Bethany also engages.  She is aware her personal history shades her sense.  Black people are for her beautiful, inside and out.

The sensitive gentleman, Alexander, truly feels for those who are not treated as well as he is.  Bobby yearns to build bridges.  For so long she felt alone in her desire to end discrimination.  Frustration with a colormute community consumed her. The two think of what it might mean to those whose skin is ebony in color, black as coal, coffee brown, or cinnamon spice, if Barack Obama becomes President.   What will it mean to Anglos such as Bobby or Alex if Barack Obama becomes the world’s leader.  

Millions may think the possibility is beautiful.  “I am Black and I am proud.”  A few might be as Bethany,  whose skin may be a sweet pink, but whose soul was joyous soaked in a world of brilliantly rich color.  Millions could be ready to create the change that was once unimaginable.  For billions this possibility is still but a dream, or a nightmare.  Alexander, who has witnessed much history doubts that anyone is indifferent.  

Much is unspoken.  More is said in a subtle manner.  Reflections on race relations in America are approached and avoided.  People worldwide care and ponder the color of Presidential hopeful Barack Obama.  They just may not chatter freely or have the forum Commentator Scott Simon does.  If we are ever to move beyond bigotry perhaps, we must acknowledge, what is “politically more injurious” is not the insinuation of racism; it is the reality.  Mister Simon, might I suggest, people care about the color of a Presidential candidates skin.

Post Script . . .

Dearest Scott Simon . . .

While many may believe it is disingenuous for Barack Obama to claim the funds raised for his campaign will fight racism in America, it is no more sincere to deny the truth that racial discrimination flourishes.  Might people also consider Senator Obama and others who fear what will be in this campaign season feel they have reason to-reaction to a historical habit they know too well.  I believe, if we are to cure the ills associated with skin color, we must empathically speak to what is pervasive and persistent on this planet.  

People embrace habits and opinions as though they are facts of nature.  We all do this, whether we are Black, white, brown, red, yellow, olive, or pink.  Republicans, Democrats, and Independents are not exempt.  Greens, I shutter to say, are also two-legged creatures trapped in a prison they think rational and reasonable.  Perchance, it is time for humans to transform.  I wish to support a campaign slogan I believe is strongly needed, “Let change begin with me.”

References, Reflections, Race Relations . . .

Issue Number One; Economic Insecurity Breeds Bigotry, Bias and Bitterness



Fear Itself

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

He was a beautiful bouncing baby boy.  He was born to two parents that love him dearly.  Even before his birth, indeed, prior to conception, this little fellow was the apple of his parent’s eyes.  His biological beginning was carefully calculated.  As the seeds of life developed into a bright-eyed baby, the people he now knows as Mom and Dad thought of little else but Maxwell.  The soon to be proud Papa and Momma anxiously anticipated the day they could hold this bundle of joy.  Each of his parents was eager to meet and greet the small, sweet face of the guy that they would call Max.  Maximum value, supreme significance, marvelously magnificent, all this was and would be their son.  After Max was delivered and during any political season, such as this, Mom and Dad feel certain Max is issue number one.

The guardians look over their angel.  They plan for his future, and they are apprehensive, just as their parents and grandparents were before them.  For generations the realities of daily life have shaped parental priorities.  First and foremost, families want to survive, to feel safe and secure.  Yet, much that accounts for stability is beyond the control of a parent or any single person.  Moms and Dads agonize, as do all individuals.  Economic, educational, environmental concerns have an effect on caregivers and all citizens.  Military engagements also affect households, even if only one lives within the domicile.  Mothers, fathers, and babies, boys or girls learn to fear.

Ultimately, in the course of a life, each individual will ask, how does any matter affect me, my family, and friends of mine?  Countless citizens sense we have loss the sense that within a society, each individual works for the commonweal.  The words of Thomas Paine On the Origin and Design of Government in General are principles from the past.  In America today, the common folk feel they can no longer trust the government.  In recent years, people profess too many promises were broken; lies were told.  Intelligence was not wise.  Still, Americans sense there is an enemy.

In the minds of most Americans, the foe exists outside self.  Few have fully internalized the truth of the words uttered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  As people do, citizens in this country trust themselves.  People know their faith will guide them.  The Almighty will not disappoint them.  Proud of their personal strength and all they survived throughout the course of their lives, the American public, no matter their economic station believes their family will be fine.  All Americans trust in their ability to fight the opposition.  Residents in the United States are not afraid to take up arms if they need to protect themselves from evil forces.

Nevertheless, Americans are “bitter.”  People in the cities, the suburbs, and in the countryside, resent the precarious position their leaders have placed them in.  In the “Land of the free and home of the brave” the public is “looking for strong leadership from Washington.”  Individuals and communities recognize they cannot go it alone.  Sadly, those previously entrusted with Executive privileges have not served the common folk within the United States well.  Citizens have expressed their ample concern for quite a while and no one seems to hear the cries.  While some of the Presidential aspirants wish to believe Americans are not indignant . . .

Poll: 80% of Americans Dissatisfied

By Associate Press.

Time Magazine

April 4, 2008

(New York) – More than 80 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, the highest such number since the early 1990s, according to a new survey.

The CBS News-New York Times poll released Thursday showed 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.”  That was up from 69 percent a year ago, and 35 percent in early 2002.

The survey comes as housing turmoil has rocked Wall Street amid an economic downturn.  The economy has surpassed the war in Iraq as the dominating issue of the U.S. presidential race, and there is now nearly a national consensus that the United States faces significant problems, the poll found.

A majority of Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, according to the survey, which was published on The New York Times’ Web site.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was doing better . . .

The poll also found that Americans blame government officials for the housing crisis more than banks or homebuyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers.

Americans favored help for people but not for financial institutions in assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis.  A clear majority said they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the depth of a recession.

Intellectually astute, each individual understands to his or her core, a country must work well as a whole.  If we act independently of others, with little regard for those who reside in our nation, we all will realize a reason to feel insecure.  No family can survive alone. Maxwell’s parents can plan and work to provide, but if the country suffers from a crisis, be it fiscal, a protracted feud, the cost of food, or fuel, the family will also find themselves in situation critical.

In a society, we are our neighbors’ keeper, for what affects those in adjacent abodes will influence us.  If one person is poor, so too is his brother.

The tenet is true in the abstract; it is also viable concretely.  We need only consider what occurs when one domicile on the block is in disrepair or foreclosure flourishes in an enclave.  Property values for all homes in the area plummet.  A family functions best as a unit.  A nation fares well when we are one.

Our most conservative estimates indicate that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile (essentially a city block) of a single-family home results in a 0.9 percent decline in value.  Cumulatively, this means that, for the entire city of Chicago, the 3,750 foreclosures in 1997 and 1998 are estimated to reduce nearby property values by more than $598 million, for an average cumulative single-family property value effect of $159,000 per foreclosure. This does not include effects on the values of condominiums, larger multifamily rental properties, and commercial buildings.

Less conservative estimates suggest that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile of a property results in a 1.136 percent decline in that property’s value and that each foreclosure from one-eighth to one-quarter mile away results in a 0.325 percent decline in value.  This less conservative finding corresponds to a city-wide loss in single-family property values of just over $1.39 billion. This corresponds to an average cumulative property value effect of more than $371,000 per foreclosure

In 2008, this consideration consumes millions of persons who thought they were safe and secure.  As the subprime debacle ripples through every community, people realize their very survival is at risk.  Everyone, even some of the elite now experience a profound sense of insecurity.  Again, people ask who or what might they trust.  The average American has faith only in what is familiar.  Max, Mom, and Dad, families turn to what is tried and true.  Whatever has protected them in the past, they hope, will save them from what is an uncertain future.

Certainly, people have no confidence in government.  Many are frustrated.  They resent those who placed them in such a precarious situation.  Mothers, fathers, sons such as Max, and daughters are reminded, without regulations only the few profit.  Dreams die.  Witness the subprime debacle.

Mortgage companies and banks, such as Wells Fargo, have twisted the average prime mortgage loan into something much more incapable of paying by the recipient, but profitable to the company. Subprime loans, as “adjustable rate mortgages,” are packed with deceiving modifications that have low “teaser” rates that expand in interest exponentially after an initial low pay period.  Families that have received Subprime loans have bit into a bitter center of the sugar-coated American dream.

Citizens in this once prosperous country wonder whether they will ever again be able to trust that they can aspire to greater heights.  Homes are no longer worth what they were at the time of purchase.  Payments on adjusted rate mortgages [ARM] are exorbitant and balloon expenditures are now due.  Americans feel pinched.  Businesses are also affected by a slowed economy and bad investments.  Bankruptcy is an option, although brutal.  As the cost of fuel and food rises, financial fears become more real.  Existence takes a toll.  As Americans assess the circumstances within their home region, they realize there is reason to hold on tightly to what they know and love.  

Perchance G-d and country are all citizens can believe in, and maybe there is no longer reason to believe either of these will save them.  Certainly, Administrations in the recent past and present have not protected us well.  After all, our Presidents, Congress, and the Federal Reserve were responsible for the Demise of Glass-Steagall Act.  This law once regulated banks and limited the conflicts of interest created when commercial depositories were permitted to underwrite stocks or bonds.  Without such oversight, Americans lost their security.  Survival no longer seems possible.  The American Dream is a nightmare.

The Next Slum?

By Christopher B. Leinberger

Atlantic Monthly

March 2008

Strange days are upon the residents of many a suburban cul-de-sac. Once-tidy yards have become overgrown, as the houses, they front have gone vacant. Signs of physical and social disorder are spreading.

At Windy Ridge, a recently built starter-home development seven miles northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, 81 of the community’s 132 small, vinyl-sided houses were in foreclosure as of late last year. Vandals have kicked in doors and stripped the copper wire from vacant houses; drug users and homeless people have furtively moved in.  In December, after a stray bullet blasted through her son’s bedroom and into her own, Laurie Talbot, who’d moved to Windy Ridge from New York in 2005, told The Charlotte Observer, “I thought I’d bought a home in Pleasantville.  I never imagined in my wildest dreams that stuff like this would happen.”

In the Franklin Reserve neighborhood of Elk Grove, California, south of Sacramento, the houses are nicer than those at Windy Ridge-many once sold for well over $500,000-but the phenomenon is the same.  At the height of the boom, 10,000 new homes were built there in just four years. Now many are empty; renters of dubious character occupy others.  Graffiti, broken windows, and other markers of decay have multiplied.  Susan McDonald, president of the local residents’ association and an executive at a local bank, told the Associated Press, “There’s been gang activity.  Things have really been changing, the last few years.”

In the first half of last year, residential burglaries rose by 35 percent and robberies by 58 percent in suburban Lee County, Florida, where one in four houses stands empty. Charlotte’s crime rates have stayed flat overall in recent years-but from 2003 to 2006, in the 10 suburbs of the city that have experienced the highest foreclosure rates, crime rose 33 percent. Civic organizations in some suburbs have begun to mow the lawns around empty houses to keep up the appearance of stability. Police departments are mapping foreclosures in an effort to identify emerging criminal hot spots.

The decline of places like Windy Ridge and Franklin Reserve is usually attributed to the subprime-mortgage crisis, with its wave of foreclosures.  And the crisis has indeed catalyzed or intensified social problems in many communities. But the story of vacant suburban homes and declining suburban neighborhoods did not begin with the crisis, and will not end with it. A structural change is under way in the housing market-a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work.  It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes.  And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound.

Perchance, more weighty than the influence of a social degradation on a community is the impression such dire circumstances leave on a little lad such as Maxwell. Young Max will learn, just as his parents had.  Likely, he too will come to believe that he can only depend on himself.  An older and wiser Max will not fully grasp how extraordinary he is, or perhaps he will know all to well that no matter how glorious he is, someone might jeopardize his stability.  No matter how well he lives his life, another force, power, person, or authority might cause his dreams to go awry.  

Maxwell sees how hard life is for his parents.  He comes to understand that he too will always and forever, need to prove his worth.  How else might he hold onto his job, his home, his money, or his sense of self?  For Maxwell, as for us, anyone, innocent as they may be, might seem a threat.  His Mom and Dad, fearful that they might lose their livelihood, health care benefits, the family home, and their ability to provide, let alone survive, teach their young son trepidation.

Mom and Dad look around the neighborhood and they see society is shifting.  People of other races, colors, and creeds are destined to overtake the white majority.  This can be nothing but trouble, or so they think.  Maxwell trusts this sentiment to be true.  The parents wonder; might immigration and  Free Trade deprive them of their life style?  In the United States, Anglo Americans react more to what they muse might be so.  However, ample evidence affirms the contrary.  A 2006 study, by the Pew Hispanic Center avows, the sudden rise in the foreign-born population does not negatively effect the employment of native-born workers.

Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born

By Rakesh Kochhar, Associate Director for Research

Pew Hispanic Center

August 10, 2006

Rapid increases in the foreign-born population at the state level are not associated with negative effects on the employment of native-born workers, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center that examines data during the boom years of the 1990s and the downturn and recovery since 2000.

An analysis of the relationship between growth in the foreign-born population and the employment outcomes of native-born workers revealed wide variations across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. No consistent pattern emerges to show that native-born workers suffered or benefited from increased numbers of foreign-born workers . . .

The size of the foreign-born workforce is also unrelated to the employment prospects for native-born workers.  The relative youth and low levels of education among foreign workers also appear to have no bearing on the employment outcomes of native-born workers of similar schooling and age.

Nevertheless, people continue to fear what is less than familiar.  Maxwell’s mother and father often speak of the immigrants.  The words voiced are unkind.  Assessments often are unrealistic.  In this country, on this globe, our apprehensions, our insecurity, the fear that we might not survive divides us.  Self-surety is issue number one.  

When individuals do not feel as though all is fine, when distressed, emotional reactions may be exaggerated. Many persons prefer to deny that they feel distraught.  The press, the powerful, and persons who wish to be more prominent understand this.  Each is expert in the art of persuasion.  Tell us that we are doing well, that we are strong, that they will help bring certainty, security, and safety to our lives, and to our country, and we will croon along with them.

Anxious Americans, at home and abroad, such as the parents of young Maxwell attack.  Anyone can be considered the enemy.  Bankers, big business, bureaucrats, billionaire oil magnates, migrants, and of course, mutineers of Middle Eastern descent.  Our fellow citizens are easily terrorized, if not by the persons who they think might destroy the neighborhood, or take their job, the people who crashed a plane into the Twin Towers must be a target.  Since September 11, 2001, Maxwell parents have thought it wise to protect United States shores.

Some Americans say we must stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These persons may fear terrorists from the Persian Gulf.  There is great consternation when people do not think they are physically safe.  

Citizens feel a greater concern when they discover the reasons we went to war are invalid.  Again, the people in this country recognize the adversary is the American Administration.  Lie by lie, the Iraq War Timeline reveals greater reason for antipathy.

Those who cite security and survival as the primary concern proclaim, “It is the economy.”  They say, this is the number one issue Americans must address.  Too many persons, today, cannot even live paycheck to paycheck.  Disposable income, discretionary spending, savings to fall back on are luxuries of the past.  People dream of the cushion they hope to create.  Yet, in the back of their minds, they fear.  Again,  foreclosures are in the forefront in people’s minds.  Many are mired in debt.  In February 2008, another sixty percent (60%) of Americans concluded they could no longer pay the mortgage.  Mortgage Woes Boost Credit Card Debt. Balances on charge cards cannot be reconciled.

Plastic Card Tricks

The New York Times

March 29, 2008

Americans are struggling with a very rocky economy while they are also holding almost $1 trillion in credit card debt. In most cases, those cards provide a little flexibility with the monthly bills. But an increasing number of people are defaulting because of the “tricks and traps” – soaring interest rates and hidden fees – in the credit card business.

Before more Americans get in so deep that they cannot dig out, Washington needs to change the way these companies do business to ensure that consumers are treated fairly.

The stories about deceptive practices are harrowing. At a recent news briefing in Washington, a Chicago man told about what happened when he charged a $12,000 home repair bill in 2000 on a card with an introductory interest rate of 4.25 percent. Despite his steady, on-time payments, the rate is now nearly 25 percent. And despite paying at least $15,360, he said that he had only paid off about $800 of his original debt.

Once more Americans are confronted with what causes great bitterness.  No one, not Congress, the companies that lend citizens cash, the corporate tycoons, or candidates can imagine why Americans might be bitter. None of these entities care enough to help the average Joe, Jane, Maxwell, or his parents.

Why might inhabitants in this Northern continent be cynical, or feel a need to cling to religion, weapons, or hostility.  Perhaps, these sanctuaries feel  more tangible.  Faith, as an arsenal, and anger too, are at least more affordable than other options.

Petroleum prices are also an issue of import.  Citizens cry, I now work for fuel.  Only four short month ago, oil hit $100 a barrel for the first time ever.  The rate charged for petroleum continues to climb.  Now the expense exceeds what was once unimaginable. The cost of crude is the cause.  The effect is, Mommy and Daddy do not drive much anymore.  Each trip is evaluated.  Carpools are common considerations.  Vacations are not thought vital.  Parents who had hoped to show Max the seashore this summer cannot keep the promise they made to themselves and their progeny.  Plans did not prove to be predictions.

In 2008, the inconceivable is classified as inevitable.  Scientists share a stingy assessment.  The environment is no longer stable.  Nor are our lives on the planet Earth.  We, worldwide, have passed the point of no return.  Globally, groups and individuals pooh-pooh this determination.  For them, immediate concerns take precedence over the future.  

The question we all inevitably ask, even if not expressed aloud, is, “Will I continue to exist?”  If so, “Will my family and I be comfortable?”  The answers shade our sense of what is right or wrong.  Maxwell hears his Mom and Dad speak of free trade.  This is another hazard that haunts them.

The link between economic integration and worker insecurity is also an essential element of explanations for patterns of public opposition to policies aimed at further liberalization of international trade, immigration, and foreign direct investment (FDI) in advanced economies. Economic insecurity may contribute to the backlash against globalization in at least two ways.  First is a direct effect in which individuals that perceive globalization to be contributing to their own economic insecurity are much more likely to develop policy attitudes against economic integration.

Second, if globalization limits the capacities of governments to provide social insurance, or is perceived to do so, then individuals may worry further about globalization and this effect is likely to be magnified if labor-market risks are heightened by global integration.

It seems every issue intimidates us.  Each challenges the security we crave.  All beckon us and cause us to question whether we, Maxwell, or his parents will survive.  Our serious fears force us to believe we must separate ourselves from others, from our brothers and sisters.  In an earlier speech, echoing the words of Franklin Roosevelt, the eloquent Barack Obama spoke of this situation and how our own anxiety harms us.[ The Presidential hopeful offered solutions.

[W]e need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all . . .

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.”  We do not need to recite here the history of racial [or economic] injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the [any] community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered  . . .

Legalized discrimination . . . That history helps explain the wealth and income gap  . . . and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity  . . . and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of [all] families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban [and now with “no new taxes” suburban] neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

Potential President Obama understands and hopes to help all American realize that we are one.  While this vocalization was meant to focus on the more obvious rift between the races, the Senator from Illinois, the community organizer, attempted to advance awareness for what troubles Americans as a whole.

In fact, a similar anger exists within [all] segments of the  . . . community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch.  They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.  They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense . . ..

Americans, no matter the color or circumstances might contemplate that anger is “often proved counterproductive” as are resentments.  These attitudes distract attention and widen any divide.  If Americans are to find a path to understanding, we must accept that our insecurity, our fears need not distract us.  We will survive if we work as one.

This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of [any child] black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem.  The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy . . ..

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics [poor and those the government classifies as affluent] who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.  This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.  We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

Today, we must be honest with ourselves.  We can admit that we are incensed, irritated, infuriated, and irate.  These feelings do not immobilize us.  Nor do we necessarily need to fight, and be combative.  It is time we teach Maxwell and also Maxine, distress can inspire us to dream the of impossible and make it our truth.  We, Americans can rise above our bitterness and build bridges to a fine future if we unite.

It is not elitist to speak truth.  It is ignorance and obfuscation to deny how we feel and what we fear.  We cannot change what we do not acknowledge.  Elusion will not bring bliss.  We may be insecure; we may question whether we can survive.  Indeed, if we act as we have in the past, if we focus on our faith and antipathy, there will be no reason to hope.  Americans, divisions have distracted us for too long.  To negate our natural response is to restrict our growth.  This time citizens of the United States, let us come together.  Bitterness can become sweet.

Sources of insecurity.  Resources for survival . . .

‘A More Perfect Union;’ Barack Obama Inquires, Do We Wish to Stand Divided



Obama Speech: ‘A More Perfect Union’

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

On March 18, 2008, Presidential hopeful Barack Obama stood before us, citizens of the United States of America.  This gentle man gave each of us the strength to believe in change.  The Senator from Illinois spoke of what Americans think is taboo; yet, the truth of this issue is obvious and observable in every aspect of our lives.  Racism is rampant.  Bigotry destroys bridges.  Our choice not to attend to the prejudices that play a part in our daily lives divides us.  Barack Obama invited us to consider the chasm we help to create and perpetuate.

As a child born to a white woman from Kansas and a Black man from Kenya, Barack Obama experienced what many young persons have, and do not speak of in public.  His own Grandmother who he loves dearly articulated words that might have wounded the sweet soul of an African-American lad.  His mentor, a man who he admires also voiced expressions that could have shattered the heart of an individual half-Anglo.  These hurtful asides did not diminish the worth that is Barack Obama.  They informed him.

While most would rather discuss race relations euphemistically, after weeks of wrangling Barack Obama concluded it was time, past time to address the attitudes that divide us.  The man who breathes the audacity of hope, Barack Obama broached what affects those who skin is Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, or White.  He eloquently introduced an issue we each grapple with.  He inspired us to think, to feel, to be better than we were.  

I am reminded of his name.  “Barack” means blessed, and so are we to have a potential President in him.  Hugs and kisses on your glorious being Barack Obama.  I offer the man who exemplifies hope, in his own words.  

Barack Obama’s Speech on Race

March 18, 2008

Transcript . . .

The following is the text as prepared for delivery of Senator Barack Obama’s speech on race in Philadelphia, as provided by his presidential campaign.

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution –  a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way.

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth –  by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. 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. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who’s been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

May we walk together, as beautiful beings one and all.  May we hold each others hand and say thank you brother for believing in me, and in us.  Let us work together and create a more perfect union.  We are Americans.  Black, Brown, Yellow, Red, White, we are all wonderful; we are created equal. Let us act as one.  United we will stand.