Sunday, January 18, 2009

Black and White

Before I begin this post, I want to share my feelings about our next President, Barack Obama. He wasn't my choice for president, but as an American I will do my best to support him and I will respect the office he has earned. He is very charismatic, I will certainly say that. Although, I know charisma is sometimes a dangerous thing. I've heard it said, "A person with charisma and charm can even make evil sound good." NOT THAT PRES-ELECT B.O. IS EVIL, just making a point. Also, I concede that he is a good public speaker - sometimes using too many "uhh"s and "umm"s and occasionally uses "a" where he should say "an", but G.W. stumbles over his words too and says "nuke-you-lar" which drives me nuts (should be "nuke-lee-er"). So yes, he's very motivational. He's certainly got the American people's enthusiasm behind him. He is inexperienced, but also has not been burned out after too many years in office. So, like I said, not my first choice but I will remain cautiously optimistic about his plans for Americans until he leads me to believe otherwise. Let's just see what happens in the next 4 years, then I can hopefully be more objective.

Next, I want to warn you that this post is all about race. As you may remember, I've written before that I am a big believer in people of all races being treated equally. And by equally, I mean that we should be striving to give opportunities, praise, and criticism to people based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. I do believe this to my core. I don't think ANYONE should be treated in a biased manner, positive OR negative, because of a physical quality over which they had no control. If a person strives throughout life, maintaining a strong work ethic and excellent integrity, and earns special treatment, then of course it is theirs for the taking and much deserved. I hope others agree that any type of award or special recognition that has been earned is much more meaningful than one that is given without thought to merit or achievement. In an ideal world, all opportunities would also be equally attainable. But, as President-Elect Barack Obama has proven, anything is possible.

Now, just a few questions:

1. Why is our next President called a Black President? He's just as black as he is white. His mother is 100% white and his father is 100% black. Shouldn't he be called bi-racial? OR, EVEN BETTER, SHOULDN'T WE NOT REFER TO HIS SKIN COLOR AT ALL???

That leads me to my second question:

2. Do you know anyone who said, "I'm going to vote for Obama because he's black"? My guess is no. Anyone who admitted that they were basing their vote on the color of his skin would risk being called unintelligent and even racist. Why base the vote for the President on his physical qualities, like race or gender or height? SO, why is it okay for Black Americans to now say, "I'm so happy we're going to have a Black President"? Is it okay for me to say, "I'm sad we're not going to have a White President"? After all, I'm white. No of course I would not say that because a) I would be called a racist, and b) I don't care what race my president is, as long as he or she does the job to the best of his/her ability and is an honest person. It just doesn't seem like the rules for what is and is not politically correct speech is the same for African-Americans and Euro-Americans.

Which brings me to my next question:

3. Why is it that Black Americans are referred to as African-American (when sometimes they aren't)? What if they're from the Dominican Republic? Or Haiti? Or Jamaica? Those people are not African. And WHY OH WHY is it proper to call them African-Americans but Caucasians are still called WHITE? Seriously, if we are honoring the heritage of the African-Dominican-Republican-Haitian-Jamaican-Americans, why don't we also honor the heritage of the Euro-Americans and stop calling them "white"? I mean, we don't call Latin-Americans "tan" do we? We certainly don't call Asian Americans "yellow". So why are Euro-Americans called "white"? Or, if we are going to be called "white", why aren't we getting mad about it?

Which brings me to my final question:

4. Why is it considered acceptable to have a magazine entirely devoted to people of color, like Essence? And what about awards for literary work by Asian-Americans in the Asian American Literary Awards? These events are celebrated as an opportunity to promote people of a certain culture. So, can a magazine be published that is devoted entirely to white people (or, Euro-Americans)? Could we have the "White Entertainment Channel"? Or the "Euro-American Literary Awards"? I do understand that for many years, the races were segregated and the same opportunities were not afforded to non-whites. So, understandably, people of minority races chose to create organizations that supported citizens of their own race. At many times throughout American history, there was a need for these special groups and people of color filled that need. But is that really the situation anymore? Is there any area of society in America that a person of any color can not participate in? Can a person of color expect equal treatment and consideration when eating in a restaurant, purchasing a house, competing on American Idol, interviewing for a job, or even running for public office? Yes, most certainly! President-Elect B.O. is proof of that!

So, are we really striving toward an America that is equal for all races? Or are we, at our deepest level, still trying to segregate ourselves?

Okay, I think I'm ready. I've got my anti-snark protection suit on. Let me hear it.


andrea said...

Boy, the first comment! That has NEVER happened. I think you put forth a lot of valid a Canadian I did not, of course, have any voting power during this election. But we all watched with bated breath to see the outcome, and I agree with you...he does have charisma. And I suppose I think that it is time for a change in our world, and opportunity needs to be given to those who make different (and sometimes better) choices. I think the Bush family has had long enough. It is time ticking. You certainly peaked my interest in regards to some of your points on the acceptance of promoting any race OTHER than white; without sounding like a racist. I've gabbled on now for WAY to long...thanks for the brain food. Take care:)

Carrie Thompson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megryansmom said...

You make some very valid points. Do not fool yourself into thinking that racism and segregation do not exist in this country. Can't we all just get along? I am interested to see what others have to say.

Jennifer said...

You know I love you, right?

1. It has been the tradition, probably since slavery days,to call someone black (or mulatto or octaroon, but never, ever white) if they had even a spot of african blood in them. I agree. It's wrong. But I doubt this "tradition" will change overnight regardless of how apalling it is.

2. For hatever reason you did or didnote vote for him, you must be able to see the historical signficance of the first black (biracial, whatever) president. I mean for over 200 years we have only had one race leading the country. I that is pretty significant. If the tables were turned I am sure all the wite people would be proud. Let's try a little empathy.

3. Seriously. Maybe because we are not discriminated against because of the color of our skin. At least not in the same manner blacks have been over the years. I'm sure if we had then we would be running from the label too.

4. When you can turn on primetime tv on the three major networks and see just as many blacks, hispanics, asians in starring rolls as whites; when you see just as many blacks, hispanics, asians gracing the covers of magazines; and when you see just as many blacks, hispanics, asians winning those types of awards, then this will be a legitimate question.

Jennifer said...

Sorry for the above typos. I'm typing one handed this morning.

Krissi said...

I could not agree with your post more than I do today... your questions are some of the same questions that I have asked time and time again. Shortly after the election I put up several posts and was not "warmly" received in my questioning nor my opinions from some people in blog land! I hope they are nicer to you than they were to me :)

April said...

I agree with all your questions. Here is another one for you. Why is it called 'reverse' racism when a non white person doesn't like a white person because they are white? Isn't that just flat out racism? Living in a town that is 50/50 black and white, I see it ALL the time. Some of the people hear assume I am a racist redneck just because I am white. It's actually been said to my face. And said to my 10 years old son who has NEVER judged a person on their appearance. He was told he was a racist because he what white. He didn't even know what that word meant until he came home and told me. But if I said something like that to a black person all hell would break loose and I would probably be thrown in jail for commiting a 'hate crime'. I don't get the double standards. Sorry to ramble.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

Oh you are brave opening up that can of worms ;)

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Yes, I know you love me. I love you too. Smooches. Thank you for saying your honest feelings but also being tactful. I really appreciate that.

Now, I think I understand your feelings. But, I just don't agree. I can only speak for my own home area, but we have television stations with black and hispanic news anchors, and national stations have the same. Also, I think the election of the first non-white president would have been much more significant 30 years ago. But now? America is all about diversity and ethnic sensitivity. Here's my point: why is all the focus on this president's skin color and not his abilities or character? I mean, did America get where it is today with laws against hate crimes and Amendments supporting civil rights by having a black president? NO. So, why would a president's skin color have any affect on his duties of office? History has proven it doesn't, and I hope the future proves the same.

Let me pose a question: if you were enrolling your daughter in preschool and there were 2 teachers, equally qualified but in different ways, one white and one black, would you say, "I want my child to have the black teacher"? or would you say, "I want my child to have the white teacher"? OR would you say, "I want my child to have the teacher who will do the best job for my daughter"? I would choose the last. This is the same feelings I have for the President. And, if your daughter went to Kindergarten, would you even think of saying, "Oh, I'm SO glad she finally has a hispanic teacher." I hope not! I really pray that you just want the BEST teacher for your child, no matter what his/her skin color is.

Here's what I'm trying to say: I'm frustrated that so many non-whites want racial equality, but then purposefully segregate themselves too. And I think that having all these groups of people that exclude all races except themselves, don't do any favors to the movement toward a more racially sensitive America. All it does is segregate ourselves further. I would love to see all these groups disband, or at least re-organize with the agenda of promoting racial sensitivity across the ENTIRE spectrum.

Thanks for your honesty.

Chris said...

I completely agree with you on every point you made. I grew up in Indianapolis. In school, the ratio of white to black was about 1 to 5. The only reason I know this is because I can remember class photos. There weren't black kids in my class. They were just kids and they were my friends. I remember a few years ago I brought up one of those friends in a conversation. My family member said "Oh yeah. I remember her. She was black wasn't she?" I didn't have an answer for this person. I absolutely could not remember. I just knew that she was the nicest person in the world and I loved her to death.

People with dark skin were treated horribly and are still being looked at with the same ignorance as 100 years ago. But it's not all of us! Like April said, we're not all racist. Some of us could care less what color you are! Now, if you show up and you're purple with green spots... I might have some questions to ask.

Sometimes I envy people with dark skin. The entire race was started because they lived so close to the equator and their skin pigment changed. I wish my skin was smart enough to change so that I didn't turn into a lobster if I were in the sun for more than 2 minutes.

Question 1 - Why is he called a black president? I don't know. But I know I hate it! All it does is point out to our children that from now on, anything that goes wrong is the fault of a black person.

Question 3 - I agree. There should be no hyphenation of American!! We are ALL Americans and that should be it!! By the way, secretaries get ticked off if you write "Mankind" under the race section of your information.

Question number 4 is something drives me nuts, especially when talking about t.v. channels. There are channels devoted to babies, children, women, men, gays and blacks. Can you imagine the commotion if they were to start WET? White Entertainment TV? It's a total double standard.

I think that might be what irritates me the most about the black/white thing. The double standards.

I should've just made a post out of this instead of jabbering on your comments. LOL

Chris said...

Texan Mama, I was typing while you were typing apparently. I wanted to say Kudos on that comment. Those are more points I was trying to make but.. you put it so much better than I do!

Jess said...

I agree with everything you've said! Even your comment! Kudos to bringing these questions up!

Debbi said...

I have to simply just say,

I have thought all those things. Exactly how you worded them.

Mrs. S said...

I also say AMEN to all your comments.

Christine said...

I just love it when you open up cans of is so much fun to squirm through. I was born in Japan to an American Father and a European technically made me asian by location, and very cultured in my point of view. I am an American by choice and I did not realize people saw others in terms of color till I was in high school....and I grew up in Texas. I think a lot of how you see the world depends on how you were raised, and I was raised to see people as matter their race, religion, choice, etc. Great post!

Carrie Thompson said...

Texasn Mama...

You said what I wanted to say without being able to! That is exactly how I feel!

Jennifer said...

Unfortunately I don't think that the country is there yet, but hopefully it soon will be.

And just as an aside, my kindergarten teacher was black and she was FANTASTIC, so I would probably be biased and ask for the black teacher, but it would be all about reliving the past and nothing about color. LOL

Bridgett said...

The only thing I think that's missing here is the idea of systemic poverty being focused mainly on inner cities, and most northern inner cities being predominantly black. That's the only place where it falls down, in my opinion. Barack Obama is not the typical black man, frankly--raised in different countries, different states, ivy league education--the kids I taught in inner city St. Louis were not heading that direction. None of them. Some of their mothers were illiterate. And I think that's where the discrepancies about race in this nation happen. Just like the idea/myth of the "supermom" who can have it all at her corporate job and raise her 2.5 kids in a beautiful downtown loft apartment. Once a few manage to do it, I feel the eyes staring at me: why can't she do it to?

Race relations in this nation, IMO, are far better than they once were. Truly. And different parts of the country have better success than others--blacks I know from California or Houston are shocked by the racism in places like St. Louis. Not the person-to-person racism, but the institutional racism. The idea that all of north city is black, all of it is poor, and the schools are worse. Far worse. The fact that East St. Louis exists in its current condition at all.

Thing is, the institutional "Fixes" for these problems, like desegregation, do not fix the underlying problems (although they do give a good boost up for individuals who have the ability to negotiate the system in order to use them). Change can only come with time and individuals who ask the questions you ask--on both sides of that color line. My neighbor Rodnee (black, from California) was so disappointed to find out her kids were going to attend a (well-financed by the Danforth Foundation) school that was almost 100% black. She wants her kids in the real world, not in some sort of black cultural ghetto, even if it's a decent education on its face.

I think these are good questions, and if they were asked in person to a panel of black and white americans, I think you would have yourself an uncomfortable but enlightening conversation.

April said...

One more thing. B.O. keeps saying he wants to unite all of the races but all I see is it seperating more and more. Ex: "First BLACK president". Tonight, that is all I heard all the news anchors call him instead of his name. Thats a very sad thing but from where I sit is true. It has saddened me what my son has learned about rasicm since the election process began. It was never a factor in his little world before then. We don't teach it or condone it at all. I truly pray that everything gets better.

Jennifer said...

I don't think that Obama is the one heralding the "first black president" thing. I think that is the media.

Also I just have to point out, I think it is really easy for a bunch of white people to talk about how racism has gotten better or that people are so much more tolerant now. We aren't black (or any other color). And it is harder for us to see. I have several black friends and we have had some of these discussions. Some of the stories they have told me makes my blood boil. Just an example, one of my friend's sons was called the "n" word at school by another child, which is horrible in its own right. But even worse, the teacher blew it off and told him he "must have heard wrong." Or another friend of mine, she called a local CPA firm that she interviewed with after graduating to find out why the other candidate was hired and they basically told her because she was black and the other girl was white.

I can't even begin to imagine how it would feel to be treated differently because of the color of my skin. Think back to high school, were you in the popular crowd? How did it feel to be cut from that group? To just be on the edge of fitting in and being accepted? Imagine living your whole life that way.

It isn't perceived. It is real. And once it has pointed out to you it is so much easier to recognize. It is like the air changes, it starts to crackle when a "different" person enters the room.

I can't imagine constantly living with the expectation that it could happen when I go somewhere.

Ok. I'll stop. I guess I should blog about it instead of just commenting and commenting.

Cookie Crums said...

All very valid points which I agree with you.

I haven't seen anyone who disagrees really except one, and it was very tactful disagreement.

I'm going to keep coming back and looking at comments to see what others have to say.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

Did you catch the Pastor today? "White, embrace what is right"--I find that offensive and I am girl who laughs at blonde jokes (and I'm a blonde).

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

I like your points. They are good and valid. And easy for someone who is white to say. No offense to that.

I did not vote for Obama. I do not feel he is qualified enough for the job YET. In a few years, maybe, but I think he is inexperienced. Plus, I totally disagree with his tax policies and his trade policies and his pro-choice policy.

HOWEVER, I do think it is significant, like it or not, that he is the first black president. It is as significant as it was when the first black Senator was elected or the first black baseball player was allowed to play, etc. I do not think Obama is heralding it, though. I think it is being thrown out of proportion for news station ratings. IMHO.

Also, I think there are race issues still today that we as whites do not see. My children's schools are diverse with their Indian and Asian population. I find myself having a hard time sometimes with the cultural differences. My kids don't. I do. The Asian kids (in general) do not come outside to play. They do not have social lives. They do not interact with other kids outside of the school grounds. That is a generalization, but does it make me racist? I don't think so. I just observe that we have cultural differences.

I don't think it is wrong to observe that someone has different skin than you. I notice when someone is taller, shorter, thinner, heavier, blonder, darker, etc. than me. It is when we make that color observation the BASIS for character differences that we have problems.

By the way, in Canada and Europe, it is politically correct to call someone black. They do not say African-Canadian or African-Italian, etc. Why is it so bad to call someone black? I do it. I have a mixed race child. I have a mixed race cousin. My aunt is married to a black man and will say that her husband is black. What is so wrong with that?


Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

I also wanted to say that apart from Obama being hailed so much for being black, I have more issue with his being hailed as such a savior. Like he is going to change the world or that we have been so oppressed and he is bringing us out from that? I hate false hope. I hate the blame game. We are such a spoiled nation.


Every Day Goddess said...

So many good points. I have been told that I live in a different world than the south. We are a pretty liberal state I guess up here in Washington. My family is made up of White, Chinese, Mexican, Black, Philipino, Hawaiian and many others in between. I think our childrens generation maybe the ones to overcome the whole racism thing. My kids do not really focus ever on a persons skin color. Actually having such a diverse group of family and friends (46 of us in all these nationalities just went on a 7 day cruise together) tends to make my children gravitate to all types of people. I have hope that this election will be an uplifting experience for all of America and bring us back to focusing on the real issues we have. Hopefully the media will back off in giving labels to everything and our new President can be known as President Obama without the attachments added on. (Just as a side note I am with you and did not vote for him but I support him and hope he brings us some healing in this nation.)

Anonymous said...

2. Do you know anyone who said, "I'm going to vote for Obama because he's black"?

in the voting line i heard atleast 4 people, white ANd black, say this. They called me racist for not voting for him. Sounds like they were being racist themselves. (i voted 3rd party)

here was my rant on the prayer

Anonymous said...

how about that for racism?
"a black pastor calling the women blacks stupid n*****s for voting for a black man? Black men ain't right, they only good b/c they were brought here by white men"
That video is nuts! and a perfect example of reverse racism

E said...

Fair discussion..

So I liked Obama and Hillary almost equally. Truth be told Obama's war position was mine, so on points I should have voted for him in the primaries. But I didn't. Why? because I am a woman before I am a Democrat.

I remember when Maggie Thatcher was PM and women's wages rose in England three times as fast as here. I remember that African American men, ( I call people what they want to be called. If you wanted to be a Euro Amer and most of your race seemed to agree that is what I would call you)
could vote before any woman and own property too. In the civil rights race black men beat out women every time....(referring to the color of skin is al old as time. And in American Black culture one drop of black blood has always been considered black. Why? Because the other side wouldn't let them sit at the counter if their skin were dark. So a protective tradition of acceptance was born)

All else being nearly equal, female pres would have raised all our boats was my thinking....

And I think many African Americans are black first...not only just first. This black president will raise all black boats by virtue of his presence alone if history is any guide. A corp with an African American president has higher average wages for it's Af Amer employees than a corp of similar size with a white pres. Many studies have revealed this time and time again.

It is a historic moment and to simply recognize the history does not diminish the man....

Jen said...

Texas Momma,
I had to come back and read this post again. I read it while at work and for some reason I cannot comment there. I like this post. I agree with some and disagree with other parts.
But this also makes me wonder, where or where are you. I miss your awesome posts and our lovely turd throwing banter. In other words, I just miss you. Come back.

Waiting while buried in children

Chris said...

Hi - I'm back again. I've been following the comments and am impressed with the intelligence of the people commenting.

As sort of a follow up to my comment about the double-standards of racism, go watch the video of Jay-Z & Young Jeezy shooting off at the mouth. If 2 white musicians or actors were to stand on a stage and scream out the non-sense that they were, it would be all over the media and the hate groups would be out in full force.

And last night, I was totally dumbfounded when I heard a young girl on Nickelodeon shout out "Our first African-American president!!" Dumbfounded and slightly angry to be quite honest.

TheXMom said...

Thank you for having the guts to post this. I agree with what you said. I liked the point that was made in a comment about how those of other ethnicities want equality but segregate themselves, I've never looked at it that way before.

Eudea-Mamia said...

I've been following this post and the comments, not quite sure where my comment would fall.

Excellent points on all sides. I really got stuck on the whole Essence, etc. point and have been thinking about this for a while. I'll see if I can explain my point of view on this.

As humans, we like seeing our "selves" reflected back at us. Imagine turning on any major station and watch as a minority would view it - I have to admit the whole experience is white, white, white. Honestly I really never paid much attention to how Madison Avenue portrays the average American, until my family became out of the norm. We are a family of four that just happens to have two boys, no girls. Take any given hour of tv and watch the commercials - please note how many families have two of the same gender? How many commercials have little messy boys portrayed with cleaning products/little prim girls portrayed with Mama and beauty products?

I do not see my family reflected there, and I am white. I imagine I just touched a very tiny tip of the massive iceberg that minorities feel when they turn on the tv, pick up a magazine, read a New York Times bestseller.

If groups want entertainment specifically geared toward their interests, I see no issue with it. IMO it's no different than a quilting magazine or a car show.

We are all Americans, but we are allowed our own opinions, interests, thoughts - family history and culture forms those interests. That should not be overlooked or taken out of context.

Great post!!

Aria said...

I'm totally not trying to spam your comments, but I came over here looking for a button to add to my site, and this post is oh-so-similar to the opinions I expressed in my last post... Ahhh, great Texas minds thinking alike, eh!

To read my transplanted-Texan version...

Anonymous said...

TM, you have some awesome readers! So intelligent and thoughtful!

Here's my take:

We are all Americans. Not African-American, not Mexican-American, Not Irish-American. Most likely, peole who call themselves that have never been to those countries, much less were born there. We're Americans, united we stand, divided we fall. You don't see people in Italy calling themselves Irish-Italian.

Political correctness is still rampant in our nation. The only way to stop it is to do what you're doing here. Just be honest. It doesn't make you a racist or a redneck, and don't let anyone tell you that. Political correctness is another word for dishonesty, and it's dangerous.

There is no such thing as reverse-racism.

Oh, look up the word "culturism". There's a concept you'll enjoy learning about. It's slightly off on a tangent, but still related to what you're talking about here.

Keep on keepin' on.

Noah's Mommy said...

Great Post...Makes you take a moment to step back and say hmmmmm....I know Juice has asked a lot of the same exact questions...and I know he grows tired of everyone saying the first black we hope that is not his only claim to fame...I told him...I think that he has been labeled as Black for two reasons....1) he considers himself that way.....and 2) we are unfortunately labeled by our outward apperance...when you see somone walking down the may think....this person is Jewish...or this person is Italian...or this person is Irish with the red hair and freckles....If you didn't know his background...if you looked at would say...he is afro-american....It is unfortunate...because it doesn't give credence to his mother and grandparents who were so important to is HIS obligation to create his profile for himself...if he wants to be bi-racial...he needs to make that point clear....

And BTW...I've left you a little present over at my place....come by and grab it when you can....I think it fits perfect....with this post...