Saturday, October 18, 2008

I Have a Fear

I spent much of the day stewing over a cartoon emailed to members of a California GOP women's group. Have you seen the "Obama Buck?" The caption above this illustration in the newsletter read: "Obama talks about all those presidents that got their names on bills. If elected, what bill would he be on? Food stamps, what else!" The president of the 200-member organization says she did not intend her cartoon to have any racial innuendo. Fried chicken, ribs, watermelon, and KoolAid were just random foods she chose to put on the buck. Random, schmandom, I said. I followed my Obama Buck angst through pages and pages of scholarly pieces on racism in America...and then read a number of editorial writers who challenged the studied observations. I left the desk so completely muddied with words, all I could do with my day was scrub floors and rearrange books on my bookshelf. I re-played in my head the lunch I had a few weeks ago with a friend I've known and trusted to be brilliant for 30 years. She told me over coffee and pie that day that Barack Obama "won't happen." "Americans are too racist," she said with nothing but calm and confidence. Not a shred of outrage about it...just the hard, cold facts. I sputtered and scratched and scrambled for my composure then, much as I did today. She had kicked me into a ditch. I got out of it by assuring myself she was wrong. I was back in the ditch this morning. Racism always catches me off guard. I am issue focused as I look at the candidates running for president. I have let myself believe the color of Senator Obama's skin is not an issue in 2008 America. One of those (Pulitzer nominated) scholars I read this morning, Joe Feagin, burst my bubble: Colorblind thinking and rhetoric are central in covering up the continuing impact of what I term the “white racial frame,” the centuries-old, white-constructed racist frame rationalizing white prejudice and discrimination against African Americans—including likely large-scale white voter decisions against a black presidential candidate in November. It is absolutely pathetic to vote against a candidate rather than for a candidate. It is unbelievably lazy to base a vote on how a candidate looks. And may I take this moment to say: it is racist to make assumptions about a candidate because of the color of his skin. What do you want for this country in the coming years? What do you want? Vote for that. Not for what you fear or what you've heard someone else say or what you think the rest of your friends will say. The ballot is your secret. Here's what I want:
  • I'm voting for a promise of withdrawal of our troops in Iraq.

  • I'm voting for a tax plan that worries less about the guy who never has to think about his bank account balance and more about the family that can't afford milk for breakfast.
  • I'm voting to provide equal access for all to doctors and hospitals and prescription drugs.
  • I'm voting for funded mandates in our public schools.
  • I'm voting for the hope that we will all come together to work passionately and compassionately to make a good world for our children and grandchildren.

And, I want to believe I live in a country with people who treasure their right to vote enough to make their own 2008 decisions. We settled the "white racial frame" in 1865. And again in 1964.

Surely we have bigger fish to fry now.

Sleep well. Peace.

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