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Monday, March 24, 2008

THE GREAT DIVIDE


I submitted this to the readers' comments in the LA Times. I had to condense it for the paper but this is the unedited version. Since I've repeated some of these words in the room I thought I'd share it with you here.

I remember talking to a group of coworkers just a few days after Obama announced his candidacy. There was one Hispanic in the group -- myself -- and two African Americans who laughed when I said I intended to vote for him. "He's black,” they said, “He can't win."

I found that interesting -- that two black women would dismiss Obama because of the color of his skin -- and I found myself listening closely to what they had to say. I learned a lot about their political perspective in the weeks that followed, all of which was grounded in two core ideas: Firstly, they were more concerned about the nation as a whole than they were about the advancement of African Americans -- there would be plenty of time for that later, once the more immediate problems facing the nation were resolved. Secondly, they were unable to envision a colorless society, or to believe that White America was ready to turn the page on the racial divide.

My white coworkers were surprisingly accepting of Obama. They were upbeat about the future of race relations in America, and welcomed the opportunity to vote for an African American. At least that’s what they said when there were African Americans present. Privately they expressed reservations about the willingness of others in the white majority to close the racial divide.

Everything changed after the Iowa caucus. For a time it appeared that the great melting pot we'd all heard about in our sixth grade social studies class was becoming a reality. I heard a lot of jokes about the racial divide in the coming weeks. That was nothing new in and of itself. What was new was that blacks and whites were telling them to each other and laughing at them together. Somewhere along the line they’d discarded the barrier of political correctness and had become one people. It was a pleasure to go to work during those weeks. Then the smear machine began to rumble and the bottom fell out from under us.

I realize now that my coworkers were right all along. Americans are neither ready nor willing to close the racial divide. All it took to change things at work was a three minute clip of some of Jeremiah Wright's sermons, taken out of context. The atmosphere has changed dramatically in just a couple of weeks. My coworkers have all retreated behind the shield of political correctness. The tension in the air is thick. And, in all their voices, I detect the subtle yet unmistakable demand that I choose one side or the other. Some days I tell myself that this too shall pass, and that, soon, we'll go back to being a team again. Other days I doubt that we'll even get back to where we were before the primaries started. But one thing is clear as rain: The gutter politics employed by the Hillary campaign -- their suggestion that African Americans are not patriotic enough to vote responsibly, that they were seeking to gain political power by voting along racial lines, that Hispanics bear ill will toward blacks, and that Obama is to be regarded with suspicion -- that rhetoric is what planted the seeds and fertilized the ground from which all this animosity has sprung. And, for that, I will never forgive her.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting.Thank you

AUNTY KATE said...

Is anyone really surprised that this election has drawn out the worst in people, who have secretly concealed their racism? I am not surprised in the least.

Until the USA owns up to its history and black Americans have received an apology, that is decades overdue, not just for slavery, but for the laws that kept them living as second class citizens for nearly 200 years past emancipation. Until that happens, you can forget about reconciliation and putting all of this ugliness to bed.

Anonymous said...

Well Said Carmen!

Hillary has absolutely nothing to lose by dividing the races - after all, division IS her magnum opus!

Hillary knows she cannot win the black vote in this election, so she does what any Bushite neo-liberal would do - creates an environment of contention, hatred, suspicion and division - the signature of a true "compassionate conservate."

Hillary cares only for those states and those voters who will vote for her; again, another Bushite political forté - the practice of shoving her twisted beliefs down the throats of those who happen to disagree with her. She is clearly of the opinion "if not Hillary, then John McCain." One can't help but wonder: Why?

While the "why" is more complicated than what I write here, Hillary's motive for supporting John McCain (and not her fellow Democrat Barrack Obama) is self-evident: Hillary believes it's HER TURN to be President and she views Obama as the spoiler. Billary's love for McCain is simply a juvenile tantrum to "get" that mean ol' Obama for raining on her parade. What better way to "get" Obama than to fluff-up racial hatred.

Bravo Hillary! You get what you want - more NAFTA, more War, and more of the same.

ononotagain said...

America WILL be dragged, kicking and screaming, to face the cancer eating you away. You will finally address the american disease under President Obamas healing touch. Racism belongs in old history books, and THIS is a chance to start that process. It may take a generation or two, but what a grand chance to begin the journey. Embrace the opportunity.

a rising tide floats all boats....let's lift our fellow man up.

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