Mary C. Curtis'
excellent post about Sen. Harry Reid and matters of race asks the question about whether Americans can have an honest conversation about race. I offer this thought: Maybe the nation is already engrossed in one
First of all, the Obama administration is the epicenter of that conversation. The administration has exposed racism as one of the creepy things that crawl in the basement of politics, along with an array of bigotries. This is the same damp place where white and minority politicians get schooled on how to get minority votes on Sunday morning without really giving anything back to the community. It's the place where minority politicians learn to diminish themselves because being themselves alienates whites. This basement is a scary place where people may not wear white hoods, but you feel like they do.
Obama has sought to transcend race, to be race-neutral, but the racism from that basement dogs his steps. It was unrealistic to think his presidential campaign would spread enough pixie dust to transport our country into a post-racial universe at warp-speed. Too many people -- of all races -- aren't there yet. Wonderfully, a lot of people are. But while Obama's election ushered in hope that we were moving forward, our conversation isn't over. Every day we get to choose how we play it.
Right now, the conversation is mean and dirty. It's not only Reid sounding like a throwback to the white view of the 1940s when dark-skinned Hattie McDaniel
was the beloved Mammy and the light-skinned Lena Horne was the beauty. It's Glenn Beck
ruminating about what to call black people or Rep. Joe Wilson feeling patriotic calling Obama a liar during a joint session of Congress. It's some African Americans who cheered Obama's presidency, but who doubt he has the black muscle to tend to their issues. It's the affront of Obama being exposed to an appalling security breach and marketing firms feeling comfortable stealing his
and First Lady Michelle Obama's
images without permission. It's Michael Steele, a black man who challenged Reid about his race-based comments, but who himself was served up as GOP chair to show some love to African Americans, and who recently insulted Native Americans
by using a pejorative term. It's the media treating Hawaii, Obama's home, as exotic territory because the president vacations there.
Obama experiences the bulk of our collective racial angst because he is a light-skinned Jackie Robinson. He has to weather the trashy attacks while he breaks barriers for the entire country at home plate. Certainly Obama must be held accountable for his leadership missteps, just as he is celebrated for his hopeful ambitions. Loudly criticize him about his handling of the economy, challenge him about keeping his campaign promise to have a public discussion about health care, but refuse to let those issues swim in the inky waters of race. Those issues are about his leadership, not his ancestry. His failures and successes aren't color-coded.
We would be a lot healthier as a nation if we acknowledge how we dump our lingering racial issues on Obama's shoulders. If we are humble enough to do that, both he and
the rest of the country may get a lot further along in our ongoing conversation about race.
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Tagged: Glenn Beck
, harry reid
, harry reid racist
, Joe Wilson
, Michael Steele
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