When I Need A Pick Me Up, by my friend Ryan King

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Um, Duh??

This story is not at all a surprise.

And if you think this guy was the only one out there, you're fooling yourself.

This is why white racism is so terrifying to me. Yes, there's racism in every skin-color group of people, but when was the last time you heard someone of color decide to assassinate a Presidential candidate because he was a white man?

If Obama does not get elected because someone killed him, I will most likely change as a person. And it won't be for the better. Because it has already happened one time too many. If it happens again, I'll need some serious conditioning not believing in complicit guilt by apathy and indifference.



A Shade Of Scorpio said...

These barbarians will need to bring me up to speed. I'm not understanding nor feeling the whole "process of human elimination" thing. Don't people have better things to do??? Like blog about dirty bathrooms? Sheesh!

Tera said...

Amen Brother! I try to put it out of my head and hope that the worst does not happen...the sad thing is that ignorance and stupidity will forever have a home in this country.

The Neighbor said...

As a white man posting on a black man's blog, I feel like I'm on very thin ice even commenting. And yet, here I am. And here it comes.

I really have no moral ground to comment on racism. My dad used to make race-based jokes, and I'm probably guilty of it as well. But I have black friends, hispanic friends, asian friends. . . I'm not outwardly racist, personally, and I really don't know what it's like to be a minority.

All of that said, every presidential candidate, ever, has received death threats. The fact that Obama is the first minority presidential candidate simply amplifies it. This guy did allegedly use a racial slur, but he also threatened GWB, and earlier, pulled a knife on his brother, who I assume is a white guy. But I really do think that he'd have used a gender slur against Hillary, a hispanic slur against Richardson - I think we're talking whackjob overall, and racism was just flavor, not the substance, at least in this instance.

Crazy how I feel some guilt just hypothesizing, but I really think he got a death threat because the guy is a whackjob and probably of a different political viewpoint. I think it made headlines because a white guy threatened a black guy. I'm not saying it wasn't racist or tinged with racism at the very least, just that it didn't merit headlines otherwise.

IMO, and with all due respect, this was just a headline grab to sell papers and ads. But then again, I'm a white guy, so what the hell do I know?

Alan said...

Hiyas My Ned!

So here's the thing. I hope hope hope hope hope you're right. That this is just one isolated nutjob thrust to the headlines because it makes sensation and that's what the media does.

But I worked in Missouri at McDonald's, taking orders in 1998ish, and I met a few someones who couldn't stand to have me take their food order because of the color of my skin. I hazard a guess that they certainly wouldn't want me to be the President of "their" United States either.

What are the odds that the only people who are like this news article guy in question are (is?) just only him and the people I served on the McDonald's line?

When I say "complicit guilt by apathy and indifference" I mean white people who allow talk of intolerance and prejudice to thrive all around them in the absence of anyone of color. And let's include sexism, while we're at it. Because it starts in the home.

It's not alright to tolerate racist or sexist jokes, no matter who in your family is telling them. Those innocuous little bon mots have been chipping away at the foundation of human dignity for as long as this country has been established. Why do you think it's taken this long for a black candidate to get this far? Why do you think it is that women STILL make 75 cents to every man's 1.00? Because it's still seen as a comfortable pasttime to make jokes about "them" instead of giving "them" their equal place in "their" society.

This is why I want Obama in that "White" House. I want your children to ha ve grown up in a country where finally, they've seen a black man as an equal leader to any white man. I don't want them to have any division in their worldview of the quality of men due to skin tone. And this was also probably why women wanted Hilary in, so I can't be mad at them for it. It's just too bad the two had to contend for the same seat. But there will be other women and other elections--maybe more women than black men, in fact. So, viva la estrogen!

The good news is, I've been in this position before and I've learned to understand where you're coming from. So I love you for your honesty and your desire to dialogue with me about it. I hope I was able to add to your thoughts on the matter, and not take away from. :-D

The Neighbor said...

Hey Alan,

Your response is indeed thought-provoking. I'm still feeling awfully white/male, and a bit unqualified to argue against any of your points. Here is what I can say - racism is, in my opinion, perpetuated by stereotypes and a lack of education and instruction to the contrary. I completely agree that racism and sexism exist in all directions at once, and since white males are the largest group, we (justifiably) take the most heat for it.

I know racism and sexism do begin at home, but I have no idea how to subvert it. But it's also in our schools, our churches, everywhere in our culture. Dave Chappelle had the highest rated comedy on television, and his show was blatantly racist, albeit more even-handed than someone like Bernie Mac or Andrew 'Dice' Clay. Chappelle always insisted he made fun of everybody . . .

Being in my position, I feel inherently defensive, and I apologize if that comes through. I'm not perfect - maybe not even very good - but if I make up my mind about someone, it's because of their mind, not their skin tone.

There are stereotypes on both sides, and I lament them, because I don't see them disappearing in our lifetimes, maybe ever. There are subcultures within each race and gender that reinforce our differences. In my race, there's the Klan and the GOP; I will not speak for anyone else. But neighborhoods, schools, churches - even at these leves, racism and sexism exist and persist.

America has too large and diverse a culture for us to all blend together. We promote individualism. We profer and perpetuate subcultural differences to this end. We will never be a nation of equality. Those folks in Missouri would not be welcome in my home, but nor would the Nation of Islam, Nazi skinheads, or fundamentalist Christians. The simple ordering of America into groups is all that it takes - as soon as I call you black and you call me white - we're focusing on our differences. American culture is pretty much fundamentally competitive - it goes from there.

I feel like I'm in very deep water here - open to all sorts of interpretation that probably does not jibe with the way I think and feel, but I want to correct a statement I made earlier with regards to my Dad. He never made jokes about people based on generalization or interpretation - my Dad was educated and liberal, and didn't hate anyone. But he wasn't perfect, and neither am I.

I'm trying, though.

Alan said...

Ned, thank you for trying--for giving a damn at all. Again, I've been here before and I've learned how defensive this can make you or any other white guy. Time was that I didn't care--I was just bitter that the feelings could exist out there in Whitelandia and I could've taken it out on anyone who volunteered to be MY whipping boy, but Scott helped me to check myself. So did MFTD. And so do you.

So, that said, I refuse to propose that we erase our differences. I LIKE our racial differences and always have. For instances, I like the cocoa brown skin of a woman of color and I like the muscle-defining pattern of hair on some white men's chests. To me, it isn't racism to know that our skin colors are different. It's racism for me to say "all people with milky pink skin must be kept down--must not be allowed to share power with brown-skinned people." It's racism when I use the influence of the brown-skinned power structure to oppress the milky pinks because they are milky-pink.

That's what I think "racism" is.

"Prejudice" is me saying "all milky-pink people are liars." I might use "prejudice" to fuel my acts of "racism" or I might not. But if I use your difference to generalize you according to that difference, and judge you according to the generalization, then I think it's "prejudice". (I'm also reiterating here for clarity's sake--not because I think you won't get it the first time :-)) ).

Some people use stereotypes, which I agree with you do exist, to justify their prejudices. I think that's terribly ignorant. Stereotypes are only stereotypes BECAUSE the whole body of a given group does NOT conform to its stereotype image. Else it wouldn't be called a "stereotype" it would be called a "characteristic".

But again, if you acknowledge me as black, it doesn't make you racist or prejudice. It just makes you a person with functional sight. :-)

Now what you do with what your eyes tell you ... that's a matter of your own conscience.

I trust you, Ned. You've treated me very well because of who I am--not what I am. I just consider being black as a part of who I am.

And differences or no, as you've said before, we are tribe.

A Shade Of Scorpio said...

Alan and Ned - you guys have really had some great in depth conversation here that a lot of people wouldn't touch. Kudos to both of you for Going There and it looks to me like it was done in style and with total respect. I've never been a white or black man so .... I'm just the woman here listening to your conversation. Personally, as far as I feel, I don't see color, I see beauty in all things, interactions & people. That's mostly what I do (no matter what I'm blogging about! People will get bored if I get all Pollyanna 24/7!)

Alan said...

Dawn, we're The Mod Squad!

The Neighbor said...

Alan, I really do give a damn. I have scolded people who drop racial slurs in my presence many times, but not every time. So while I feel relatively good about my own perspectives, the fact remains that I'm not perfect, sometimes not even all that good. I was discussing this conversation today with the Librarian, who had this to say, loosely paraphrased:

Stereotypes will always exist as a substitute for first-hand experience. The open mind will start with them. The closed mind will finish with them. She keeps surprising me like that.

Her personal experience has to do with a year in Australia, and the stereotypes Aussies have of us - we're all rich and Texan, apparently.

The feelings you describe being bitter about DO exist out here, much as I'd love to deny them, but these are the shrillest voices, and the most ignorant.

I really just don't have the will to delve deeper tonight, but when you talk Tribe - the only race that matters is the human race.

You make a great point about stereotypes - they're inherently false, aren't they? Or at least, overly generalized.

Racism in my mind is judging someone without knowing them, based on the actions of someone unrelated. I don't know. I feel safer talking about this - much to your credit for having the grace to make it so.

I'm not without my prejudices, to be perfectly honest, but they find their roots in things well under an individual's control. Lechery. Drunkenness. Sloth. Gluttony. These are things I find it hard to overlook; things that color my opinions well beyond their relative importance.

I say this knowing my shit stinks, of course. I really appreciate and value you, Alan. Having your trust means the world to me. I treat people the way they deserve to be treated. You have my respect because you earned it.

And Dawn: you and I have yet to really directly communicate, but I respect your views and thought patterns and most of all your protectiveness of your daughter. Like Alan said, color is real and apparent. Seeing past it is what's important. No one is going to get bored reading your blog, anyhow.

GrizzBabe said...

What a civilized debate!

So, that said, I refuse to propose that we erase our differences. I LIKE our racial differences and always have.

Thank you! I don't think we (and by "we", I mean people of color) always embrace our differences. Sometimes, we're even embarrassed by them. Maybe by accepting our uniqueness as a people, it will make it easier for others to accept us. Sometimes I think our culture is examined and found to be so remarkably different from the predominant culture that it is dismissed as undesirable.

A few years ago, I was babysitting two children -- one boy, one girl, both white. We were flipping through the television channels and landed on some UPN show. Now, I'll be the first to admit that television shows with predominately black casts can reinforce stereotypes like no other, but I was a little taken aback when the young girl turned from the TV screen to me and said, "I don't like black culture."

I don't expect people to like everything about our culture, but I do want it to be at least as appreciated as Italian-American culture or Irish-American culture.

GrizzBabe said...

I sometimes hear it said that we should all be colorblind. I don't want someone to look at me and not see my color, because wrapped up in my skin tone is a whole host of cultural characteristics. I don't want that part of me to be ignored.