Last week race became the issue in the election of 2008.
Of course some people would say, and they’re probably right, that it was always the issue, but it came to the surface last week. I won’t try to speak for them, I’ll just speak for myself.
I am white, male, 52 years old, and like everyone else (sorry) I feel that people always find a way to push me to the side, to objectify me, to react to my body as opposed to my ideas, and to use me as a screen to project their fears and doubts on.
I went into yesterday’s podcast thinking we’d have an interesting discussion on race, that I was prepared for whatever would happen, but I was not prepared. You can hear that in the 50 minutes. You should listen all the way to the end before you form a judgment. And also watch your own responses and reactions and see how your racism works.
In the US, it seems no one is without it. If you think you are, perhaps it’s because you’ve kept it tucked away, and don’t challenge it, so it’s invisible to you. But you have no trouble seeing it in others.
For example, there’s no missing Geraldine Ferraro’s racism, I don’t know if she sees it or not. But it’s clearly untrue that her nomination for VP in 1984 is comparable to Obama’s leadership in the Democratic nomination process in 2008. She was chosen because of her gender. But that does not imply that Obama is leading because of his race. There is no correlation.
I understand her point of view because it’s familiar to me, people close to me see it the same way as Ferraro. I don’t think they can or will or want to change, they will always believe that Obama had an advantage.
In the comments in response to yesterday’s podcast, Herb, a black man tells a story of attending a conference as a speaker, and having other participants treat him as if he were a waiter. I honestly had no idea that that happens. I knew that stuff like that happened in New Orleans when I was a student there in the early 70s.
I think blacks are racist too, btw. I’ve experienced it this way. According to them, all my experiences are invalid. They tend to talk about white males the same way Republicans talk about liberals, as if we’re silly, naive, trivial people. Can you imagine I don’t like that any more than the speaker who was asked to fetch a Coke. We’re always lectured, no matter how old we are, no matter how much life experience we have, no matter how curious, or intelligent we are, the same way, as if we need an education. Black people actually put it that way. No not all. But remember, not all white people asked for the Coke, either.
BTW, that also comes with age. As you get older a curious thing happens. In some contexts you’re assumed to be smarter, but in most you’re that trivial, naive and silly stereotype I described above. It happens more frequently as my beard gets more gray and my hairline recedes.
I listened to Face The Nation on my walk yesterday, and heard Bob Schieffer ask Deval Patrick if black people are going to be angry if Obama is denied the nomination by superdelegates even though he has a majority of the elected delegates, and a majority of the votes. Wait a minute, what about non-black people who support Obama? Doesn’t our opinion matter? Apparently not. What just slipped out there? Schieffer seems like a good guy, high integrity.
Then this raises another question for me. Okay there’s a lot of unprocessed anger over race in the US, and a lot of it will come out in the next few months, but what if Obama is elected? This is where my head starts spinning. I tried to raise the question in yesterday’s podcast — will blacks look at the world differently now that a black man is President? I think he said no. I can’t believe that. Something will have to give. But haven’t they thought about that at all? (I’m very sure something will shift because, being around Silicon Valley for so long, I’ve seen lots of people achieve wealth very quickly. This usually causes an eruption of huge emotion as the normal feeling of worthlessness is contradicted by the new worth in the person’s bank account. People often get very depressed when this happens.)
Then the question comes up — will there be retribution? I couldn’t believe I was thinking about this, but the Jeremiah Wright speeches that came out last week put it front and center. There was a time that I remember when blacks talked about taking power in the US in ways designed at least in part to scare white people. Obama is the perfect black candidate for not raising the fears of whites, unlike Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. I’m still supporting him, but now I have new questions, that I probably would eventually have had even if Wright’s speeches hadn’t become an issue.
Yeah, I’m a middle-aged white male, and my opinion matters not one bit. I’ve heard that so many times. But of course I don’t buy it.
I want to believe what Obama says, because I know that what he says is what we have to do. I want to find people whose politics are as far from mine as possible and find the bond that connects us as Americans. I think if we all do that we can hold on to our beliefs, and not worry about convincing others that we have it worst (that’s not going to happen) but rather look for ways we can give each other what we want. That’s why I want to know what people want, not the kind of victory wartime presidents say they want. Sometimes you can define victory, but most times there is no victory. We just get to do more with our lives with less suffering, and after all that’s pretty good.
PS: I’m not voting for Clinton, under any circumstances. I would be happy to vote for a woman for President, but send us someone better than Hillary, who doesn’t deceive so much, who actually has the experience that she is claiming. And even if she doesn’t agree with Ferraro, she tried to use it, and that’s inexcusable.
Update: This piece is cross-posted at Huffington.