Anybody Want Healing?

Sometimes, I need help to understand why some things are as they are…like this: why do some white people think it’s racist to acknowledge that racism exists and to talk about it?

I have been chewing on that ever since I had an online chat with a white friend who was furious with me for saying that, at the beginning of the GOP race for the presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich was “playing to his base.”

That base was in the South, and consisted primarily, as far as I could tell, of white people. Many of them resonated with Gingrich’s assertions that black people and their situation in America were surely to be considered; in a speech in New Hampshire he made in January he said “… the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/05/newt-gingrich-paychecks-food-stamps_n_1188193.html)

That comment, along with others, such as “President Obama is the food stamp president” are no less disparaging and inaccurate about the lives of African-Americans than was President Reagan’s creation of  the “welfare queen” which fed into the belief by many whites that black people are eating up the economy; their access to entitlements are a big part of the blame for the shoddy economic condition of this country, many will say, and any attempt dissuade people of those beliefs usually meet with rabid and bitter opposition.

OK, so I get that …but why, if one talks about the reality of racism in this country is one branded a “racist?” Why is the worst thing to talk about in America race, when our sick racism is at the base of so many of our problems?

In a book entitled To Ask for an Equal Chance, author Cheryl Lynn Greenberg talks about the state of African-Americans during and leading up to the Great Depression. She cites United States Supreme Court decisions few of us know anything about, like Grovey v. Townsend (1935), which said that electoral parties are private groups and can exclude African-Americans from membership and participation, and Norris v. Alabama, (1935) which allowed for the routin exclusion of African-Americans from jury duty. She talks about the “Atlanta Six” who were arrested in 1930 under a slave statutes against inciting insurrection for organizing protest. In The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan, an amazing book which describes the dust bowl of the 1930s, there is a description of signs put out advertising scant employment opportunities, but signs which clearly said “colored need not apply.”

The foundation of America was sewn with racist and with sexist threads…so why can’t we talk about it without being called “racist?

I cringed when, after Trayvon Martin’s case garnered national and international attention, and President Barack Obama made the statement that if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon, the accusations of him playing the race card flew as though the card game had been set upon by a great, unexpected wind. Those protesting said he was not only playing the race card, but that he was sowing division amongst or between the races, because this is an election year.

The truth of the matter is that racism has been brewing just under the surface of our American political scene since the president was elected. Congressman Joe Wilson’s rude “you lie!” outburst at the president’s first State of the Union speech was beyond comprehension; the tactics of the Tea Party, including some who reportedly  spit on revered African-American leaders, was steeped in race.

The truth of the matter is, not talking about race has only made the situation worse. Everybody wants to pretend that “it” isn’t racism that is driving some of what we are seeing and hearing today, but it is…We can’t keep agreeing to be silent. We need to face it and shake out the blanket of American democracy. The wrinkles caused by racism need to go…but if we keep the blanket all balled up, the wrinkles will only become deeper.

A candid observation …

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Comments

  1. In the 50s and early 60s I grew up on an Out Island of the Bahamas (strictly, but not legally, segregated) and in Jamaica (fully integrated) and in England (what? only white people? where’s everyone else?) Race is one way of dividing people into Them and Us, and it’s not always the tool that is used – but you better believe that people are always going to make some division, one way or another!

    I agree it’s necessary to fight racism, and sexism, and homophobia, and … and … and all forms of prejudice and bullying. But it’s a Whack-a-Mole task, you KNOW something else will pop up!

    Keep smiling!

    • candidobservation says:

      You are right. People will oppose each other for any number of reasons, and will feel perfectly justified in doing so. Right here in America, the Irish and Italians didn’t get along until they realized they could team up as “white” and discriminate against black people. Amazing. Just amazing.
      Thanks for reading the piece and commenting.

  2. nita b says:

    There’s no doubting the racial divide in this country. It exists whether we talk about it or not. However, you can’t force people to talk about things they don’t believe exist. Personally I’m tired of talking about it. If Black people did less whining about it and took more action then maybe we would be in a better place in this country. We already know it exists but how are we dealing with it? What action are our churches and civic groups taking to combat it? I’ve been taught to expect racism so that when it happens I’m not thrown off guard. If we took just one week to stop talking about it and start being about it we would be a healthier race immediately. I’m soooo tired of the talk. Nobody has the power to change anybody else. Change can only come with an honest assessment of ones self, not incessant whining about powerless over other people’s actions.

  3. candidobservation says:

    You make good points about churches and civic organizations needing to do something about it …but because those groups really DO NOT talk about it (talk as in teaching what it is, how it has impacted history, etc) they do little or next to nothing. I have found that as I have written pieces, and educated people, black and white, about things they didn’t know about, their eyes and spirits were opened and they experienced a greater understanding and an appreciation for what racism has done. The understanding is what I look for, so that people rely on truth and not “what mama said”… and the understanding makes fertile ground for healing and cooperation between the races instead of resentment and fear. It is so needed…
    Thank you for your comments.

  4. Caroline says:

    It makes no sense to me that speaking to the fact that racism still exists is considered being racist. To not speak to this is ignorant, period, because anyone with eyes and a mind to think critically can look at numerous situations in this country and see that racism is far from gone. I understand people who say to stop beating the dead horse, but to those people I would say, as soon as the “horse” is truly dead, our fight will then be over. Until then, the struggle for equality continues.

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