Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Glib Racism or a Voice of Experience

One of my favorite parts of the Inauguration ceremony was the benediction offered by the Reverend Joseph E. Lowery, a former NAACP head and 60's civil rights leader who knew Dr. Martin Luther King. He's since become of voice for all oppressed people's of any color, or so I have read.

I enjoyed his prayer, like I enjoyed the rest of the ceremony at length. His eloquent words breathed life into a time and place I know little of. Life in the 60's for African Americans. Before and during the Civil Rights Movement.

He ended his words rather jovially with this little quote that brought some laughter from the crowd.

"We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right.”

While scanning the news articles about the Inauguration today, I've discovered that more than one conservative is offended with the "white will embrace what is right" statement.

Surprise, surprise. Glib racism! Post racialism!

Do I believe his comment was racist? No, because I look at the man who said. He grew up in a segregated, repressed world. He lived it. I did not, therefore I will not make judgements. Like so many white people of his generation, perhaps he has a hard time letting go of the past. Perhaps white just happens to rhyme with right.

I wonder how many other Democrats feel these comments were racist? I would venture the number to be extremely low if non-existent. How many Republicans? From what I've read this morning, a lot are offended.

Why? I'm just as white as some of these conservatives. I'm not offended. I don't feel threatened by his words. In fact, I find this to be a perfect example of being overly sensitive.

Perhaps it goes back to the Civil Rights Movement and Linden Johnson in the 60's. Republican opposition was fierce. Some thought the Communists started that movement. Some still blindly believe that no matter how ludicrous it sounds. (Those dreaded Commies are always up to no good.)

Perhaps a few needed something to be mad about and this is what they chose because they could find nothing else wrong with the ceremony. Nothing in President Obama's speech. Nothing in the music. Why is no one happy that Justice Roberts screwed up the oath of office? I bet he did it on purpose because Obama voted against his nomination! (wink, wink)

Call it blind faith, but I enjoyed the ceremony. Alot of people did. Democrats and Republican's alike. Every word of it. Whether he just wanted his poem to rhyme or he had some secret political agenda, the man's in his 80's. I say let him voice what he's been denied so often in his long life.

The right to express his opinion.


Bryce and Mandy said...

I thought his last little comments were funny. I laughed. I am surprised anyone is offended by it. I definitely wasn't and I am as white as they come. Hello, CTR people. I teach that every week so I guess I am used to hearing it. I don't think he was trying to be racist. I think he was trying to include all races and it rhymed.

I think you are right that people are just picking through everything trying to find something negative. I thought the whole ceremony was fantastic. It is too bad it is being tainted by something as silly as this.

Bryce and Mandy said...

Sorry, me again. You got me thinking (uh-oh). I think what he said about whites fit perfectly in with the whole situation. A black man became president and for that to happen a lot of white people had to vote for him. Something people never thought would happen. So, in order for that to happen white people had to embrace the right and vote for someone regardless of their color. Maybe he called out the whites because every other race has already had to vote for someone not of their race. Or maybe it just rhymed. :)

Ben and Christina said...

I've been thinking about this a lot today as well. You bring up some good points. Was it the smartest thing to say? No- not any of it, singling out all colors like he did (not just whites). Obama is really trying to make this be about inclusiveness, and that wasn't an inclusive statement. Is it worth stressing about? No. After I type this I will probably forget all about it.

But, I do wonder if perhaps some of this stems because there still IS plenty of racism out there. I remember talking to an Af. Amer a few years ago and she said, "I am reminded of being black every day of my life." She went on to explain that people will walk to the other side of the street when she is coming down, clutch their purses closer when she gets on the subway, stare at her when she goes to the store, etc. Now, as whites, we don't deal with that. Perhaps it was just her perception of how people treated her, perhaps it was real. But, I ask you: When is the last time you had black friends over for dinner? Would you move to a street where you were the only white family? Would you send your children to a school where it is a60% minority population? I am not saying there is a right or wrong answer, I am just saying that is the way it is, and none of that has changed simply because we have a black president.We all know that the secret service is going to have to work overtime with Obama because of his color, and if anything happened to him, we would all have to stay in our houses for 3 months so we wouldn't be the target of hate crimes.

I love that Obama always talk about AMERICANS and not dividing us up- that we are all ONE country under God, and he is constantly talking about being inclusive (which is why I was really ticked when my friend told me yesterday she refused to turn the TV on and be part of "Obama-nation"- makes me sick that even on a day of celebration she couldn't put aside her hate to just enjoy being an American- but, for her, it is still all about whether you are Rep. or Dem., not about whether you are an American, and that makes me sad, and a little angry). But, with that said, I can understand if the blacks aren't quite yet sold on everything will be great and the KKK will now stop their hate- this was just one step, but there are still many more to go.

Sorry this is so long!!!

Lula O said...

I too, like how Obama tries to pull together instead of apart. His speech was very unifying; emphasizing unity in a time of crisis. He didn't mention policy once. I found that to be very interesting. Man that guy can really speak!

As far as the prayers go, I don't believe that Lowery's intention was to further divide the country by color, any more than Warren's was to cater to only Christian conseratives. I believe that both showed that we, as American's, are a variety of colors, shapes and sizes, religious backgrounds, etc. His prayer was different. It represented his background and race. One that I am entirely unfamiliar with, but do not reject. The style of African American faith is unique. How people pray is different for everybody. I hold no one to pray just like me but embrace the diversity. We are not all the same. I think his prayer showed that.

Obama's election is a step in the right direction, but we obviously have a long way to go on the issue of race. I'm excited to see what he's going to do next and I'm hopeful of the future.

okbushmans said...

Why anyone would be offended is beyond me. Outdated? I believe so. Divisive? If you make it to be. Humorous? Made me chuckle. But when people miss the gravity and greatness of the entire day and focus on his little lymric, shows how narrow the scope.

However, it made me sad that this aged and appearingly wise man would still feel this way. And I know he represents a large group of those who lived through bigotry, hatred, and finally the Civil Rights movement. As someone who is VERY white (you haven't seen me dance) I feel like Obama's election wasn't proof to whites that we were ready, but to ALL races that the majority of whites have been ready. And my hope was that his election would be evidence that we, as a white population, have moved so far beyond race as an issue, proof to those who are of different races. And with his words (which I may be reading too much into them) it seems that there is still the question there. And I wonder, what more can be done to show we have changed and evolved as a people?

Am I totally off?

Lula O said...

Sorry, been gone all day.
It takes time. Unless your Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Must our past always define us? I would hope not, but as I age I've noticed I don't bend so much as break. I thought Lowery's words more culture revealing than otherwise. A reminder of the past perhaps. It's us, the younger generations that will change, have already changed and evolved. Look who voted for Obama, the 50 and youngers. I believe that for our children and our grandchildren, race will never be an issue.

I thought the whole ceremony a great slice of Americana. The White House is now as diverse as the rest of the United States.

Ben and Christina said...

What I am really, really hoping is that the young blacks will see this and no longer use their color as an excuse not to achieve greatness- that their color can not hold them back. Hopefully, things are changing- and I think they are.

Ashley said...

Hi, guys,
I'm a long-time reader/rarely commenter...does that make any sense at all?

I thought the little "poem" at the end of the prayer was a little silly, but not offensive. Aren't we taught to "be not easily offended"? I think too often we take offense to something at face value and don't take the time to consider what the person's real intent was. In this case, I think the poor guy just needed something to rhyme with "white".

I didn't vote for Obama. As a pretty conservative Republican, I didn't vote for him. I still think Mitt Romney was the best guy for the job-NOT because he is LDS, but because he's an amazing businessman, and running a government is running a business. But between McCain and Obama-I think Obama is probably more capable of getting the people to believe again, which counts for something. I intend to support him, to pray for him, and to believe he is a generally good man who's doing what he believes is best for this country that he loves.

Ashley said...

ok, that should say "rare commenter" not "rarely".

Lula O said...

Hey you changed your picture Ashley. Cute family.
I don't think most people that claim to be offended really are. I think some are just looking for an excuse to be disgruntled.

I enjoyed the whole ceremony. It made me feel very patriotic.
We are all hoping for the best in these difficult times. Thanks for being supportive.

Oh, Mitt. I love talking about him. He did beat McCain on many levels, and although he'd probably done a snappy job as President because of his experience, I've not like him since he claimed to rescue the Utah Winter Olympics - I lived there at the time. He claimed credit for a lot more than he actually did, I thought anyway. When he posed for People with his shirt off - Okay he's a fine looking fellow in a swimming suit and no one knows it more than him, but come on! And finally when he raced in on the white steed of his money and animal magnitism and trampled the current female Republican Lt. Gov(who was a young mother of twins) at the time who was also seeking the Rep. nod for Gov. of Mass. during the primaries that year. I didn't think that was very chivalrous.
But besides that yes, I think he'd have probably won if he'd won the primary based purely on his economic background, and he is quite the babe.
Thanks for your comments.

Ashley said...

He's just proud of his hair....If a man hits about 40 and still has hair it does wonders for his ego!