Of course, I did not count on the fact that FOXNews would much rather point out what a scary black guy Barack Obama really is. I did not count on the fact that right-wing bloggers and journalists would do their utmost to paint Obama as a closet Black Muslim, Black Panther, white-hating fire-breathing scary black man.
Furthermore, on the post at ER's, some comments I made in which I challenged some things written by another commenter, were deemed close, but not quite, out of bounds. I thought it best to move my own position over here, to keep both ER and me from getting angry and frustrated with each other. It is far better to do what needs to be done on one's own territory, with rules one sets, rather than cause problems for others.
Having said that, I want to quote now in full my final comment:
ELAshley, I did not call you a racist. I said that certain things you wrote ignored historical facts and realities that could be construed as not being sensitive to the way others see the world. That's all.
As to comparing speeches . . . King's rhetoric, while soaked in the style of the Baptist Church, became increasingly strident as he turned from the single issue of Civil Rights to the larger issue of social justice, with his criticism of the Vietnam War becoming the focal point of a larger critique of American society. Nothing Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton has ever written or said has ever come close to the denunciations of America that appear in King's later speeches. Not one thing.
Finally, I just want to say that it is the focus on these two gentlemen that made my eyebrows rise and sit up and post the comments I did. If we compare anything they said with the words of, say, Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace (before he repented), and going back in historical time a ways, Ed "Cotton" Smith, Theodore Bilbo, and John Stennis, and compare the legacies these latter men represented, and the power they wielded, and the institutions and practices they supported, and the former pair of men, I do believe you might consider the possibility that you are comparing apples and oranges. More to the point, I wish to know why it is that it is incumbent upon the historical victims of racial violence in our society to prove they aren't angry to be acceptable to the rest of us? Why do these men, who have made mistakes to be sure, and occasionally gotten overheated in their comments and controversies, for some reason represent for some people in this country, something frightening? I will address this issue on my own blog, so you may address comments there, if you wish.
I would like to be clear about something before I sign off this thread. The issue of racism, for me, is not an issue of what is in an individual's heart or mind. Since that is inaccessible, it is not so much a realm free from judgment as a straw creation set up to protect us from charges of racism. My observation on ELAshley's comment focused on his words, and his words alone. While I applaud anyone who wrestles with this very American of social sins, and sometimes sounds confused in the process, I do not think it wrong to point out that one might not realize how hurtful one is being in the process of such wrestling.
To me, this is all part of the dialogue process. If I have over-stepped the bounds here, I apologize. I shall, for obvious reasons, abide by the rules as set forth by the host.
While it makes me sad, for better or worse, we are going to have a discussion on race in America that includes crap. We are going to hear from all sorts of white people that they aren't racist, don't benefit from a racist society, have all sorts of black friends, and prefer Marvin Gaye to Bobby Darin, giving them street cred. We will hear from some people that calling the words of someone racist is wrong and bad, because no one knows what is in another's heart. We will hear how awful the Black Panthers and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are, compared to that big old teddy bear Martin Luther King, Jr. (who had his house bombed, was called a communist, had his phone tapped, his organization infiltrated by the FBI, and was finally murdered in what can only be called curious circumstances).
Except, I don't like those rules. In fact, I think we need to address head-on the notion that any public discussion on race should not include labeling some words "racist". To that end, while I find it irrelevant, I will admit right up front - I have struggled with racism most of my life. I have struggled with the reality that, as a white person, I am given all sorts of privileges and passes that a person of color will never receive. I accept the fact - and, like all facts, it exists independent of our acknowledgment of it as a fact - that racism is such a deep, almost socially and culturally genetic part of American society that it will never be eradicated from my life.
I also know that I have learned this, been called to account for it and had the choice of change forced upon me, by some of the most beautiful people in the world. Confronting one's demons is harder than almost anything. I do not point the finger of racism at others out of a sense of deep satisfaction with my own freedom from that particular anchor dragging me down. Rather, like Marley's Ghost, I see that weight on others so clearly only because I have reached the point, perhaps too late, perhaps not, of seeing my own all too clearly. I do not judge others harshly; I only ask that, again like Marley's Ghost to Scrooge, they see clearly what seems invisible, and take the opportunity for serious repentance.
So, as this is my last post for eight or nine days (what vacation would be complete without a vacation from blogging?), I offer this as an open forum in which people can talk about race. The only rules here are those rules of a knife-fight - there aren't any. Please, discuss, rage, call each other names - but try to listen and learn, even if the words hurt.