March 13, 2008
Silly question? What if racists don't know they're racists, and what if others of us make comments that can be construed as racist -- even though we know we're not racists.
Hasn't everybody run into this from time to time? Racism is so ingrained in our lives that if we make some "white" comment, there's likely to be some black around who takes umbrage. Why, by my having said "black" just there instead of African-American, I just offended somebody for sure.
I grew up in the Jim-Crow-segregated-South. We had to work at learning to pronounce Negro correctly. To call somebody "black" instead of "colored" was an insult. Then came the Black Power movement and it all changed. We tried to change with it. It has changed many times and probably will again. Not being in the wronged race, I am forced to accept their definition and to make allowances for hurt feelings where none was intended.
Probably a lot of white people get angry when once again they're told they have it wrong. Geraldine Ferraro, never the brightest bulb on the porch, came a cropper when she said this to a little small-town newspaper in her area:
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color), he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."
To give her credit, I actually don't think she knew how that would sound. She may not have even known what she said. But she says it was not meant to disparage Obama, and that his operatives were wrong in considering it racist.
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position." (He would not have garnered support from hundreds of thousands of young people, he would not have won a majority of the states holding Democratic primaries; he would not have won the Iowa caucus? What position does she think he is in that only a man with a Kenyan father and an American white mother could be in in this country?
Maybe by "this position" she meant to imply that he is the first man of African American origin to be this close to the nomination as standard bearer of a major political party. If he were a white man he certainly would not be in this position.
"And if he was a woman (of any color), he would not be in this position." Pardon me, but there is a woman in a very similar position.
"He happens to be very lucky to be who he is." I was under the impression that he got to be who he is, and in the position he is, by his own merit and considerable talents in convincing people that he deserves to be. This statement says out-and-out that it is because of his good luck in being a black man in the right place at the right time.
"And the country is caught up in the concept." Well, that kind of hurts my feelings, as Hillary Clinton famously said. I am more moved by Barack Obama than I have been by any Presidential candidate in my lifetime, but I think it's a little more than being caught up in the concept. I respect his mind, his eloquence, his promise to reach across the aisle and work with all Americans in making the country better. I fit pretty well into Hillary's (and perhaps even Geraldine's) demographic, an older, underpaid white female overachiever, but I would rather see Obama as the next President. Not because he's African American, nor in spite of it. Just because I listen to what he says and admire the way he says it.
He would never say anything as clumsy as Ferraro did, but if he did, he would know how and why to retract it. Whether she's a racist or not, I wouldn't say. She certainly doesn't think she is. But to blame Obama's troops for reading her remark that way, she certainly shows that she's clueless.