Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Ignorance and Racism

As a very white girl from a very white town in Kansas, I have to admit I've been pretty naive about racism. I was raised to believe that a person should be judged by their character and not by the color of their skin and I stupidly assumed most people believed the same.

That's not to say I hadn't ever seen racism in action. I remember an incident when I was in middle school where my brother was having one of the guys from his ball team in a neighboring town (who happened to be African-American) over to stay the night. I happened to overhear an adult say to my mother, "You aren't letting him stay at your house, are you?" To which my mother calmly replied, "Of course. He's Drew's friend." Before that I day, I hadn't actually noticed that the small Kansas town I lived in was almost entirely white.

Of course, moving to the South brought me into contact with even more blatant racism. I actually had a first grader tell me she couldn't be a partner with another student because, "I'm not supposed to touch brown people." She was most definitely partnered with him for the rest of the unit.

Sadly, I have to admit that up until recently, I have again been hiding in my own little personal bubble. I haven't been looking for racism even though I know it is all around. It pops up in the most unexpected ways- like at our neighborhood mall where I witnessed a security officer telling a young African-American kid to take his hood off his head. My own husband and son were wearing hats but were not asked to do the same. Sadly, and maybe thankfully, the teenager removed his hood without any comment. I hate to imagine what would have happened had he refused (as was definitely his right). Of course, what kills me is that I didn't say anything.

With our current political climate, racism is seeping up to the surface more and more. Like when I heard this on NPR: "I never really thought about whether or not that I was racist, or however you want to put it," said Tina Graham. She fears Obama would focus on African-Americans at the expense of poor white people like herself. "It's just the fact that I think that he will represent them, and what they want, and what they need. ... They're his people, they're his race." Believe me when I say, my jaw hit the ground. Hey, guess what? You ARE racist. I almost fell over at that.

But, that wasn't all I was to experience. I knew racism had been circling around Obama's campaign but I didn't know quite how intensely until I read Lawyer Mama's post over at Momocrats which compiled it all into one foul pile.

I guess my biggest frustration is hearing people maintain that they're not racist, and then turn around and make racially tinged comments with an air of plausible deniability. Rep. Westmoreland calling Obama 'uppity' and then CONFIRMING that he said it. We're not that stupid. Race plays a HUGE part in this election whether you like or not, but the Obama campaign is unable to confront that straight-up for fear of being accused of 'playing the race card', and the McCain camp and supporters can stir up the bigots using code phrases.

Also the idea that Obama being a serious contender for President Of The United States signals an end to racism in this country is ridiculous too.

I guess in the end, I will continue in my naivety by hoping that Americans (or at the very least the people reading this post) will vote on the candidates' platforms and policies and NOT on the color of their skin. Lofty dreams, I know. Comment away!

(Thanks to my hubby for all the things to link to and even a little bit of co-writing. We'll return to a regular old mommy blog tomorrow.)


Chelsea + Jonathan said...

Oh man I heard that interview on NPR too and I was SHOCKED!

I'll have to check out your links later.

Lawyer Mama said...

The bubble is a comfortable place to be. I guess that's why GWB spends so much time in it.

All of this stuff has been so disturbing to me and since I put up my post, people have sent me even MORE stuff. I'll have to do a Part II.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I'm constantly fending off bizarre racist comments about Sen. Obama--from his faith to his parentage to his "ability to lead." Astonishing, but not, I guess, to be unexpected in this country of ours.

Very thoughtful post--and right on.

Kate said...

Oh, I know. Just last week, after the high school kids in my town had been on lunch hour, someone found the N word spray=painted onto the boardwalk near the HS campus. And I live in the north! It blows my mind how we have yet to evolve enough to still even deal with racism. I was actually out door knocking for the campaign last weekend, and got the first slam in the face from some little old lady that screamed "No Coloreds in the White House!"

As it stands, Obama is a hands down better option on policy issues-- so much so that I think the code phrases will get much, much worse in the coming weeks-- because McCain's camp has little else to go on at this point.

I am so nervous and so wanting it to be November 5-- so long as the news is confirming Obama had the landslide victory, of course:)

Lisa said...

I think Tina on NPR needs a reality check. Obama is just as much white as he is black.

Susie said...

YES! Because when you can't win on the issues, you pull the race card perpetuating myths and racist attitudes - "He's not like us, he doesn't understand." Ugh!!! It does have me really evaluating my own ideas and views about race. I hate that the election has come to this...