Heartsick

I am so upset about what happened in Ferguson–what happened every 28 hours in this country in 2012. And I am so upset about police response to the community when all the people want is accountability. It makes me sick that local police think it’s okay to shoot tear gas and “non-lethal” rounds at nonviolent protesters to make them disperse. There is so much going on here, I don’t even know where we should begin to try to fix it. Ferguson needs elected officials and police officers who represent the community. Ferguson residents need to be treated like people, not inmates. “Law enforcement” needs to stop setting and backing up with force arbitrary rules that only incite anger. All the cops need to spend time doing community service and undergoing training on how to treat people. And I just don’t see how the proper response to this is to send in troops, unless those troops are going to arrest all the police.

I’m not surprised that horrible prejudice exists. You’d have to be blind not to know that. But it makes me heartsick nonetheless.

Vote Obama

I voted for Obama in the Democratic Primary and I am going to vote for him in the Presidential Election (because he will get the nomination). I have not stated this plainly anywhere because I have been afraid that the people I love will not understand. But how, after reading his March 18 “A More Perfect Union” speech, can people not see that he is the one we need right now?

Here is an excerpt from the transcript posted at the Drudge Report:

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.

Barack Obama sees what I see–people are who they are based on the times they lived in, the people they’ve known, the experiences they’ve had. There are so many race issues that still need to be worked out. And there is no simple band-aid we can apply to fix everything.

Obama knows that we have to acknowledge these problems…and he also knows that we simply cannot do so in an angry, violent, stubborn way. We must take a step back and be thoughtful. We must evaluate positions other than our own, and ponder the implications of our own upbringing.

This is the path to wisdom and justice, not only in our internal affairs but also in our dealings with the rest of the world.

We need someone who isn’t single-minded, who can take in all the issues and weigh them with intelligence and sincerity, and then make the tough decision.

Barack Obama is that person.

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 naive 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 if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

Blackface

Today I learned, via Japundit, about a new comedy whose plot involves a movie being filmed about the Vietnam War. Robert Downey, Jr. is playing a actor who has taken a role originally written for a black man. Rather than having the role rewritten, his character, one of a group of very pompous actors, is playing it black.

when did Ben Stiller get ripped?

Given my previous discussions of race issues, you might expect me to be upset about this. I kind of expected me to be upset about this. But this is actually pretty awesome, for two reasons.

1) It’s hilarious. I mean, this has got to be one seriously self-involved character, to think he can “play” another race. I’m pretty excited to see what kind of jokes come out of it. Done well, this could be truly effective modern satire.

2) Look at this:

side by side comparison

I think this is pretty successful. And I don’t think the message is that it’s easy to make a white person look like a black person. I think the message is that we don’t really look that different.

Hair, eyes, skin color, size…those can all vary. But at the core, we’re all human beings. We’re made of the same stuff, just in a thousand beautiful variations.

I think that’s a very positive message.

Images courtesy Daily Mail

Good one, Bill

From the New York Times Politics Blog:

Before Mr. Obama’s win on Saturday night, Mr. Clinton was at a polling place in Columbia, S.C., and was asked by a reporter, “What does it say about Barack Obama that it takes two of you to beat him?” referring to Mr. Clinton’s full-time campaigning for his wife.

Mr. Clinton laughed and replied, “That’s bait too.” (He had just responded to a question about Senator John Kerry by saying he would not take the bait.) He then added: “Jesse Jackson won in South Carolina twice, in ’84 and ’88, and he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama is running a good campaign.”

There is video of Mr. Clinton’s response to that one question but not of the entire exchange with reporters. But Mike Memoli, a campaign reporter for MSNBC and the National Journal, wrote the most complete account of the exchange, and it contains no other reference to Mr. Jackson. Mr. Memoli said in an e-mail that no one had mentioned Mr. Jackson until that point.

So essentially Clinton said “Look, this other black guy didn’t become the nominee, so it probably won’t happen this time either. Put your support behind a white person instead!”

I mean, how else are you supposed to interpret that? Jackson wasn’t mentioned until this point; the only reason I can think of to bring him up is because he was also a black candidate. Even if Bill wasn’t intending to imply that Obama won’t win because he’s black, he’s still being condescending: “You’re doing a good job! Just like that other black guy!”

Sheesh. Can we just get past the race thing, please, and evaluate candidates based on the issues?

What causes people to make racist comments?

I like to believe that Don Imus didn’t wake up that day and think, “Hmm! Let me insult some people!” I mean, in this day and age, it should be pretty damn obvious that what he said was completely inappropriate and was only going to get him into trouble. Surely he knew this.

Mel Gibson had the tenuous excuse that he was drunk. What’s Imus’?

Regardless, these things that people are saying in unguarded moments…is this really how they feel? If so, why? And what can be done?

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