Two Bibles, Two Gods, Two Constitutions?

It occurred to me that in this country, we probably live by a set of two of everything we hold dear.

I, as an African American, see the world, God, the Bible and the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence differently, it seems, than many of my white brothers and sisters.

It seems that we – black and white Americans – both live in make-believe worlds. In my world, I make-believe that the Constitution is a document that pushes egalitarianism, equality, justice for all. In my make-believe world, God is a God of justice, who is, as the Book of Galatians states, “no respecter of persons.” My God is one who would not and who has never sanctioned violence, discrimination, lynching, denial of rights and economic disparity. My God is the hero of the oppressed, the God who thundered “Let my people go!” The Bible I read supports the idea of God that I have as a loving God who loves all His/Her children equally.

In the make-believe world of my white brothers and sisters, racism is gone, a thing of the past. It seems that for many, not all, but for many of my white brothers and sisters, God was, at least, a God of division, a God who ordained slavery and allows injustice. For them, God does not insist on social justice ; or them, “the least of these” is a group narrowly defined, most often not citizens of America. For my friends, the United States Constitution does not guarantee that all people should have the same rights as others; all people are NOT created equal, they will say, and have always said. (Even our beloved President Abraham Lincoln, though he opposed slavery for some very pragmatic reasons, said that he in no way thought that white and black men were equal or deserving of equal rights.)  The Bible that my white friends read and interpret from seems to condone the superiority of one race over another, and includes passages, divine words, if you will, as justification not only for racism, but for sexism and homophobia…and perhaps militarism as well.

Well,it’s no wonder the country is in such a mess!  We do not intersect, we blacks and whites, in the very areas where we should,tied together by one God, one Bible and one Constitution. The problem is that God, in Her wisdom, created us with minds that interpret what seem to be pretty clear-cut and dry messages in all kinds of different ways. The Founding Fathers never intended any of us to include black people or women, for that matter,  in their lofty statement that “all men are created equal.”  The late Strom Thurmond said that yes, the Bible said that we should love our neighbor, but that, by golly, we as individuals have the right to choose who our neighbors are.

I wonder if God is wringing His hands? I rather doubt that the Founding Fathers are sorry for what they wrote; they wrote what they meant, and they thought everyone – including black people and other people of color and women – would be bright enough to understand. But God…I wonder about God, and about what God thinks. Is God pleased not only with this country, which seems to have a dual belief system for whites and blacks, but for other countries which practice oppression, discrimination and cruelty on the basis of another’s race or gender?

I sometimes wonder if God is sighing and thinking that we people still have problems “returning to God,” as did the ancient Israelites. When God’s people back then continued to live in ways that were in contradiction to God’s will, God got angry.

I wonder if God is angry now.

A candid observation…

Disrespect of President Obama is Telling

Governor at a book signing in Phoenix, Arizona...
Image via Wikipedia

I keep trying to put into perspective what I feel about seeing the picture of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer shaking her finger in the face of President Obama.

Actually, I don’t know what that perspective is…I guess whatever the president said to her annoyed her.

But I am thinking that other presidents have said things to governors in the past that were not words of comfort or praise for jobs well done, and yet, I have never seen a picture of any other governor shaking his or her finger in the face of the President of the United States.

Gov. Brewer said that she respects the office of president; it was striking but not surprising that she did not say she respected the President.

But her actions belie her proclamation of respect. Shaking one’s finger in someone’s face suggests that one thinks one has the right to do such, and that the one being “scolded” is somehow so much “less than” than the person doing the scolding that the pointed finger is deserved.

What has bothered me from the beginning of this president’s term is the lack of respect for him which has then spilled over into actions which have shown an absolute lack of respect for the office of President.

From Sen. Mitch McConnell‘s proclamation at the beginning of President Obama’s term that his top priority was to make sure that President Obama would be a one term president, to Joe Wilson shouting out “You lie!” during the President’s first State of the Union address to this …the lack of respect has been blatant, scorching, and arrogantly communicated.

So does this mean that some people will not and cannot respect the office of president if someone they truly dislike and/or disagree with is in the White House?

Why is it that I cannot remember anyone showing such disrespect when President George W. Bush was in office, a president who got the country into two wars, ran up our debt by out of control spending, and who, frankly, kind of made a mockery out of Republican/Conservative principles when it comes to spending?

Was it because he at least gave big business and the wealthy what they wanted – tax cuts – which arguably have contributed to the financial mess we are in now?  When one thinks about what President’s actions and policies have done to this country, it would seem that his actions would have stirred the ire of red-blooded Conservatives, and yet, nothing. I never saw anyone openly disrespect him.

Has Gov. Brewer apologized for what she did? I haven’t seen it. I have seen a story where she said that she went to the airport to give President Obama a letter to invite him to an event, but that he ignored that invitation and voiced disapproval over the way she characterized a meeting the two had dealing with immigration.

The story did not quote Gov. Brewer as saying the President had been rude, or disrespectful, in the way he voiced his disappointment; had that been the case, I am more than sure we would have known it. No, the articles I have read have merely said that she took issue that he had taken issue with the way she summarized the way she wrote about their meeting.

And for that, she shakes her finger in the President’s face?

I am appalled by what I have seen overall since the President took office. I am not an “Obama groupie;” I think the President has done well in some areas and not so well in others, but he is the President of the United States, for goodness’ sake! I did not like President George W. Bush, but he was the President of the United States! Had I met him, there would have been no way I would have disrespected him.

That so many people think it is OK to disrespect President Obama in the way that they are is troubling. The President has handled it well, probably better than we who have observed it. But the type and the width and the breadth of the disrespect of this president says a lot about what’s going on, on many levels.

I leave it to you to unpack that last sentence.

It is a candid observation.

“Meanness” an Attribute for GOP

I heard this morning that what Conservatives most want is someone who is “mean,” someone who can beat the president in this fall’s general elections.

That’s why issues about Newt Gingrich‘s marriages and his alleged desire for an open marriage, just wasn’t an issue in the South Carolina primary. There is a “national conversation” that is in place, one ABC reporter said, and in order for Mitt Romney to regain a bit of the ground he has lost, he has got to tie into that conversation.

Included in the conversation is anger amongst the GOP.  The successful GOP candidate must connect to that anger, and run a campaign that addresses the “politics of resentment.” It seems, according to some, that a large part of the GOP base is angry at the “elite media,” the  economy, of course, and the fact that Barack Obama is in the White House.

When Newt Gingrich did his “Contract with America” some years ago, the issue of anger was addressed; specifically it was the anger of white men. Is that the same crock pot that Newt has identified and is adding ingredients to – this pot of stew, brimming with elements of white anger?

This election cycle is a bit scary to me; for the party of “faith and values” to be willing to abandon that platform just so they can elect someone they think can get the president out of the White House makes me wonder about the validity of their claim to be so above it all. The recent YouTube video of the young man giving a spoken word about how he hates religion but loves Jesus, then, seems so appropriate. This young man sees the disconnect between what religious people say and do, and it bothers him.

It bothers me, too.

It seems that if the faith and values people are just looking for someone to go on the attack, and be “mean” enough to get President Barack Obama out of office, then something is askew. If the Evangelical, pro-life base is willing to remain silent on what appear to be obvious moral breaches on the part of Newt Gingrich, just because they think he can beat President Obama, then something is wrong.

When it no longer becomes important that a presidential hopeful at least appear to be concerned for all of God’s children, when it becomes OK for a man who’s marital and extramarital indiscretions are not important (when in the past, such indiscretions were enough to knock any candidate out of the ball park), then we Americans need to stop and pause.

We are in a very dangerous place.

I suspect that the next few weeks leading up to the Republican convention are going to be painful, because the campaigns will be so nasty and so “mean,” that the real issues will be lost. Politicians are good at manipulating the emotions of Americans, and Newt Gingrich is one of the best.

If it is true that what GOP voters are looking for most is someone who is “mean,” it’s likely they won’t be disappointed.

But at the end of the day, what in the world will it mean for our country?

A candid observation…

Such Thing as Racially Coded Language?

I got into a rather lively debate with a (former) Twitter follower of mine.

She had seen the title of my post entitled “Newt Gingrich Owes African-Americans an Apology” and had taken issue. Her response to the tweet announcing the blog post was “no he doesn’t.” She said I was playing “the race card” and that “it doesn’t work.”

Later in the evening, she and I started an exchange. I said that Newt had played the race card by referring to President Obama as “the food stamp president.” Though statistics show that more whites than blacks receive food stamps, what many “hear” when they hear “food stamps” is “black people are getting food stamps” because they are lazy and do not want to work. It’s an underlying thought in this country, and, I argued, Newt knows that very well.

I said that Newt was playing to his base. I also, erroneously, said that he had earlier said that “poor black children” don’t have a work ethic,” and my friend quickly corrected me and said he had only said “poor children.” She was right and I admitted it as such.

But she was angry. She said I was racist and that I was calling HER racist for saying that Newt Gingrich was playing to his base. And she said that people like me are the ones who keep the races divided. She “unfollowed” me.

She is not the only one who would agree with me, and clearly, not every African-American would agree with me. Just this morning, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and Roland Martin were talking about this very same thing with former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain, who vehemently rejects the idea that there is such a thing as racially coded language.

But that’s all right. Back to my little encounter with my Twitter friend, I was sorry that she “unfollowed”  me because I enjoyed tweeting with her. She and I obviously have different ways of seeing things, but that’s good; one learns from talking with people who are different.

But what bothers me is that she really thinks that there is no such thing as racially coded language. She accused me of  “race baiting,” and if bringing up that Newt was playing the race card to appeal to his mostly white, South Carolina audience, then that’s what I was doing.

But it seems a bit naive to really believe that there is no such thing as racially coded language. It has always been done. President Reagan, the GOP iconic hero, did it when he used the phrase “welfare queen.” I am quite sure that the image that most people had, black and white, was that of a black woman with too many kids who refused to work but who kept having children so she could get more money from the government.

It is a despicable image, and an inaccurate one. Yes, there are people of all races who abuse the system, and yes, it is true that if one keeps getting hand-outs, he or she might be less inclined to look for work, but that doesn’t apply to everyone or even to the vast number of people who are on public assistance.

Rick Santorum, at least, was forthright in his comments which were not all that complimentary toward black people.  He said, outright, that he didn’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and make their own money…” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/rick-santorum-entitlements-black-people_n_1181212.html)

It was a straight up statement; you didn’t have to guess about what he meant. He later tried to back out of it and said he didn’t say “black” people, but he did. He was standing on the long-held stated and believed myth, again, that “black people” are lazy, that “black people” are the ones who are using and abusing the welfare system. It was insulting, but the language was not racially coded.

Gingrich, on the other hand, did use coded language when he said that President Obama is the “food stamp president.” He was more honest when he said that the “African American community should demand pay checks and not food stamps.” It is still insulting; it is still a statement that upholds and supports a myth that black people are the ones driving the growth of “big government,” and that is just not true. You can read what Gingrich said at (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/05/newt-gingrich-paychecks-food-stamps_n_1188193.html).

I will probably never re-connect with my former Twitter friend – she won’t have it – but I cannot let this discussion slip into nothingness. She called me a racist for saying that Newt was and is playing the race card and for sticking to my guns. That’s rather like one who has been beaten being blamed for the beating. African-Americans, and many whites, have “been in the storm too long” not to recognize when they are being targeted for someone else’s gain.

Newt Gingrich is a master politician and a very smart man. Trust and  believe that he knew what he was doing when he said President Obama is the “food stamp president” to that roomful of white people in South Carolina. If saying that makes me a racist, then so be it. The truth is the truth.

A candid observation…

Newt Gingrich Owes African Americans an Apology

Sign for "colored" waiting room at a...
Image via Wikipedia

Newt Gingrich owes African-Americans an apology.

He absolutely knows what he is doing.

His constant calling President Obama “the food stamp president” is nothing more than racial politics, no less reprehensible or excusable than when Lee Atwater and the GOP used the image of Willie Horton to take down Michael Dukakis in 1988.

Gingrich has settled into the language that “liberals” or “elite liberals” are the only ones who “despise making money.” That is incorrect, but it isn’t a morally and ethically reprehensible statement or behavior.

But going to South Carolina and using language that feeds into the racial fears and misconceptions that come up in conversations with far too many white people, is a moral and ethical outrage.

Can you not get the votes, Mr. Gingrich, without putting black people down and feeding into the misconceptions of way too many white people?

Statistics released by the United States Department of Agriculture show that 35 percent of all food stamp recipients are white, compared to 22 percent black, and 10 percent Hispanic. If  you, Mr. Gingrich, would say that, or something to that effect, the insult you have heaped upon the descendants of African slaves who built this country would be non-existent.

I wonder if Gingrich, or any candidate, has the chutzpah to tell people part of the reason that the unemployment rate amongst black men, especially young black men, is that too many white employers still refuse to hire them? I wonder if Gingrich, a historian, has the courage to talk about the fact that black people have lived through an era where at one time, there were blatant signs put up, “Black (or Colored) people need not apply,” as African-Americans sought to find work?

The signs are gone, but the emotions, feelings and beliefs that made people feel justified in putting such signs up are far from being gone.

I wonder if Gingrich has the courage to stand up and say, since he is wanting to be president of ALL of the people of this nation, that the undercurrent racism of this country will be met with and dealt with in his administration if he is elected president, so that the course of this nation will be turned, finally, away from post-Civil War and Reconstruction white resentment of black people which has never died, to a 21st century, Christian endeavor to deal with our racism honestly, for the good of the nation.

Many, too many, white people say, and believe, that “this is a white man’s country.” In her book Rising Sun, author Sharon Davies gives an account of a young white girl who is appearing before a grand jury because she has converted to Catholicism, against the wishes of her parents. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan was not only against black people and Jewish people, but it also hated Catholics. This young girl’s parents were amongst the Catholic-haters, and, enraged that his daughter had married a Catholic boy in secret, her father had shot and killed the priest who married them.

In her testimony before the Grand Jury, the young girl was asked if her husband was a white man (he was from Puerto Rico and was allowed, by Alabama state law, to say he was “white.”) When the girl said he was a Spaniard, the Grand Jury members scoffed, and one juror said, just remember, “this is a white man’s country…always has been and always will be.”

A young Hugo Black, who would become a member of the United States Supreme Court, was one of the girl’s defense attorneys …and he was also a member of the Klan, as were many of the jurors.

That feeling has not gone away and Newt knows it, and he thus knows that saying President Obama is “the food stamp president” feeds right into that belief and the sentiment that there is a need to “take the country” back. The charge is that Mr. Obama is the most liberal president in history. Say that. True or not, it’s fair. It is fair political rhetoric.

Say that it is true that more people are on food stamps than at any other time in our history, but that  statistics say  that more white than black people are on those food stamps, and they needed to do it because the economic mess that Mr. Obama inherited from the GOP was so horrible that had he not made a way for more people to get food stamps, a lot of Americans, black, white and brown, would have not been able to eat!

Make the argument against President Obama openly about economics, and not sneakily about race.

Americans who have found themselves not only using but needing food stamps for the first time in their lives are ashamed for having to use them, but at the same time are grateful that this president did what he thought would best help them.

It is true that some people, black and white, who receive government assistance, are abusing the system. Say that, Mr. Gingrich, and nobody will be able to accuse you of playing the race card or indulging in racial politics. When you say that President Obama is “the food stamp president,” say that his policies have resulted in more  black and white and brown people getting food stamps than ever before. Then your statement will not be racially charged and racially polarizing.

I know that politics, or the game of politics, is not supposed to be fair, but it is high time that racial politics stop being the trump card for politicians reaching for the White House. African-Americans, and indeed all Americans, deserve better.

African-Americans have provided the labor upon which the economy of this nation was built. It is high time white politicians say that out loud, and stop the craziness and stop using words that only make the decay in our nation caused by racism worse.

You, Mr. Gingrich, owe African-Americans an apology. It is NOT all right to insult us, even if you are trying to kick Mitt Romney out of contention for the presidency. What you are saying and are now defending, is morally and ethically wrong. We deserve better.

A candid observation …