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Nobody’s Perfect

September 16, 2009

Jimmy Carter set off a firestorm with his comments to Brian Williams yesterday when he injected race into the nation’s current political discourse. To quote the former President: “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man.”

I thought long and hard about how to handle this issue. I’m sure there are those who are parsing every syllable of that statement, looking up each word for the exact definition in Webster’s Dictionary, and pontificating on the many faults of the peanut farmer from Plains. I decided to take a simpler approach, because the best way to understand complicated matters is to beak them down to their most basic components.

We are all, Black, White, Conservative, Liberal, young, old; human. Emotions are an essential factor in what makes us who we are. Therefore, when folks say they aren’t racist, they’re not following the old axiom, “Know thyself.” Every American, hell, every person on the planet, has both positive and negative feelings toward other people. We tend to like those more that we find similarities with.

I’m not condemning all Republicans as hatemongers for their opposition to President Obama, but choosing to ignore the fact that race plays a part – no matter how great or small – is as foolish as Larry Craig denying he’s gay. What do you feel when you look at this picture:

obama_witch_doctor_photo

Please be honest with yourself. Some find it hilarious, some find it highly offensive. Either way, you feel something.

We cannot conquer our faults overnight, I understand. Still, we’ll never be able to conquer them if we refuse to admit they exist. There are plenty of reasons conservatives might object to the way we’re trying to reform healthcare. Yet all too often the vitriol spewing from the Right has nothing to do with policy differences, but something much more sinister. And until we’re ready to deal with the darker side of our consciences, we’ll never fully be able to enjoy the light.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2009 12:45 pm

    Well stated, sir. It’s way past time for the great ‘Conversation About Race’ that I have heard many rumors about over the years, to finally begin. I don’t like the way things have been going since January in that regard and it has steadily gotten worse and worse since then. At this rate, we’ll be in the midst of Civil War II by the end of President Obama’s term.

    • September 16, 2009 12:50 pm

      I agree. We desperately need that conversation, the sooner the better.

  2. xy08 permalink
    September 16, 2009 1:13 pm

    “Yet all too often the vitriol spewing from the Right has nothing to do with policy differences, but something much more sinister. And until we’re ready to deal with the darker side of our consciences, we’ll never fully be able to enjoy the light.”
    Exactly. Well put, Kurt.

  3. September 16, 2009 2:22 pm

    Kurt Since you were kind enough to leave a comment with me I thought I’d return the courtesy.
    Although I readily concede the election of Barack Obama,or say Deval Patrick in MA (Gov) are indicators racism is extinct in America,can’t it be said that perhaps we the people are having the conversation people long for ?

  4. September 16, 2009 2:23 pm

    ooops that should read is NOT extinct.

    • September 16, 2009 2:25 pm

      When President Carter gets blasted for merely stating the obvious, I guess not.

  5. thedamnedoldeman permalink
    September 16, 2009 2:28 pm

    Certainly there are racists out there. I have seen evidence of that nearly everyday since I was old enough to understand what racism was. But it is not only right-wing conservative white men. The Black community voted overwhelmingly for Obama, in far greater numbers and in far higher percentages than they had ever voted for anyone before. Racism cuts BOTH ways. It wasn’t only Blacks who voted for Obama because he is Black, many on the left fell in love with the idea of electing a Black President. Unless Obama’s supporters stop looking at him as the “Black” President, they can’t expect anyone else to either.

    -TDOM

    • September 16, 2009 2:34 pm

      Fair enough. See, we’re engaging in discussion. You’re right, of course. When I said nobody’s perfect, that applies to everyone, regardless of skin color. I voted for Obama because, as I do in every election, I go with the lesser of two evils. That was a pretty easy choice in 2008.
      So, I never looked at him as a “Black” President – as you suggest. Therefore, it would be really, really nice if other folks didn’t either.

      • thedamnedoldeman permalink
        September 16, 2009 5:57 pm

        I am always happy to participate in discussion or debate. I won’t fault you for your choice, but I made up my mind long ago that I would never again vote for the lesser of two evils. The last time I did that, it was 1980 and I have regretted it ever since. This timie I voted for Ralph Nader.

        -TDOM

    • September 16, 2009 6:04 pm

      thedamnedoldman,

      If you honestly believe that the ONLY reason that Black Americans voted for Obama was because he had the same skin color, that is a problem.

      Contrary to popular belief, we (Black America) all don’t just fall in line with someone simply because he or she is “black like me”. I know it sounds like science-fiction but a majority of us have opinions and a good many of those would surprise the mainstream.

      I wish it was as simple as voting for Obama because it was the “cool, hip, ultra-liberal, we shall over come” thing to do but the bottom line is, voting for him was the obvious choice considering the alternatives.

      When the election campaign began, my candidate of choice was John McCain. That was before he started sipping the super conservative Kool-Aid and then REALLY lost his mind and threw any remaining chance of the Republicans regaining the White House by picking “that one” from Alaska as his running mate. Honestly, how could anyone in their right mind chose that ticket? Mr. T and Hulk Hogan could have beat them, never mind Obama and Biden, I pity the fool.

      Let’s be honest, had the last President shown some kind of interest as to what was going on in the Black community other than the occasional photo op and fly over Louisiana after Katrina, Obama would have faced a tougher challenge. As it were, Black America embraced Obama because he showed an interest, he listened, he cared. He could have won this election without the Black community, in my opinion but I still constantly hear how that the Black community only saw the color of his skin and voted for the man. If that was the case, then Jesse Jackson, the Barack Obama of 1984 and 1988, would have fare much better than he actually did.

      Barack Obama was elected not because he was black, he was elected because, as Kurt stated, he was the lesser of two evils. But one more thing and I’m done. The main reason why he was elected had less to do with the color of his skin and much more with the disconnect that the political party that “freed the slaves” has with a large section of this country, black, white, red and yellow.

      Sorry for rambling…

  6. thedamnedoldeman permalink
    September 16, 2009 6:32 pm

    I never stated that it was the only reason, it was obviously more complex than that. But it was a big reason. A large part my clientele is Black and so are a number of my co-workers. I overhear a lot of their conversation and during the election, it was quite common to hear comments about putting a Black man in the White House followed by very little else of substance. I can’t speak for the lack of support for Jackson, but the support for Obama was unprecedeted in its unity. Despite the fact that many other factors were involved in garnering that support, there were probably at least as big a percentage of Blacks voting for Obama because he is Black as there were whites voting against him for that very same reason. The point I am making is that racism is rampant on both sides and until we decide to become human beings instead of Blacks and whites, we will not end racism.

    -TDOM

    • September 17, 2009 8:05 am

      TDOM,

      Let me get this straight, when a majority of white people vote for a white candidate, it’s okay, but if a majority of black people vote for a black candidate, that’s a racist gesture? Especially if that candidate happens to be the best candidate? Oy vey.

      Had McCain stayed true to himself and not sold his soul to Rush, Barack Obama would have had a much harder campaign.

      As for that picture, the President is half white of British descent, I have yet to see him depicted as Winston Churchill or Henry VIII.

      • thedamnedoldeman permalink
        September 17, 2009 11:08 am

        Voting for a candidate simply because of the color of his skin is not ok, no matter what that color is. If you were really trying to understand my posts, you would understand that. As for the President being half white, no one seems to notice, not even him.

        -TDOM

  7. wok3 permalink
    September 16, 2009 8:20 pm

    I was happily surprised to find out that this nation could actually elect someone that wasn’t white, I honestly didn’t think the day would come to pass for many decades to come.

    But to not realize that the throngs of people during last years campaign that were frightened of the mere idea of a black man being the President of the U.S. are the very same throngs that are vehemently opposed to him seems a bit odd.

  8. September 16, 2009 10:50 pm

    Denying racism is one of the oldest and most intellectually lazy tricks in the book. It’s unbelievable that people can say that picture has nothing to do with race.

  9. September 16, 2009 11:32 pm

    TDOM, Don’t even get me started on Ralph Nader…
    Troy, you’re so right about McCain. I really liked him way back in 2000, how the mighty have fallen…
    Wok, I guess we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go…
    Emily & Mike, intellectually lazy is a great way to put it…

  10. thedamnedoldeman permalink
    September 17, 2009 11:14 am

    Kurt, given the name of your blog, I was rather hoping you would start in on Ralph. 😉 I have always like him, even if I haven’t always liked his politics. The same could be said for McCain, until this last election. I understand that after failing to win the nomination by being true to himself, he felt he had to sell out, but I didn’t like it and couldn’t trust him enough to vote for him.

    -TDOM

  11. September 17, 2009 2:04 pm

    TDOM, I read your posts just fine and understood them as well. I just don’t like the implication. How do you figure that the President has forgotten any aspect of his heritage?

    • thedamnedoldeman permalink
      September 17, 2009 3:49 pm

      Noone likes being called a racist, particularly if they are not. But racism exists in all cultures, it’s not an exclusivley white thing.

      When I first moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s I had a job interview in Watts. Having no transportation, I had to take the bus. I really didn’t know where I was going or I may not have gone. That bus ride was one of the most valuable experiences of my life. It was a quick (and rather frightening) lesson in the very best and the very worst of Black and Hispanic culture. A Black male spent a good deal of time uttering some very offensive racial slurs and threats in my direction. I simply attempted to ignore it. Once he exited the bus the elderly Black lady sitting next to me felt the need to apologize. I then had a very pleasant conversation with her and a couple others. After the interview I was escorted to the bus stop and protected by the Hispanic male who had interviewed me. He wanted to hire me, but he knew better. Even if I had my own transportation, I would have been a target. We talked about it. Those were the first, and remain some of the best conversations I’d ever had about racism with those of other races than my own. I gained a whole new perspective. It was also the first I experienced it from the receiving end, though not the last.

      As for Obama, I simply look at his actions. They speak much louder than words. His appointment of Sotomayor to the Supreme Court in spite of her racist and sexist comments. No white man making similar comment would have been allowed to keep his job, let alone received such an appointment. His quick and ill-informed condemnation of the police sergeant who arrested Professor Gates. Even without all the facts, he was very quick to turn that into a racial issue. Then of course there is his association with his friend, mentor and pastor. If he were in tune with his “white” side, he should be offended by at least some of his own actions.

      -TDOM

  12. October 2, 2009 10:57 am

    I never believed the statement by Carter and will never accept it. It is ridiculous to say that those who oppose Obama are race related. Obama’s presidency is becoming extreme left and he will be opposed by many people even those in his party. His oppositions may have been increased because of the unique challenges the country faces.

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