Saturday, April 3, 2010

Race In America

 I stopped judging Barack Hussein Obama as an African-American around the time he won the Iowa caucus in January 2008. To me, I could care less about the color of one's skin or his religion. It's what's in his heart and head that is important.

Of course, as a journalist who is in the profession of assessing labels for the sake of simplicity and laziness, I refer to Obama's African heritage only as a milestone in U.S. politics where no black man has trekked before as President Of The United States.

When Obama signs the new health reform legislation into law, I don't see a black man. I see my president.

Race in America is a curious and oftentimes volatile experience. My son identifies himself as white even though his mother and wife are of Mexican ancestry.

The U.S. Constitution reminds us every 10 years what ethnic origins we come from in the form of filling out the official census. The 10 questions seem to be fixated on our racial heritage.

Barack Obama on his census form we are told checked the box stating African-American.even though we all know his mother was as white as the snow that falls in Kansas. I couldn't hep reflect when the news media last breathlessly reported what a president reported on a census form.

As noted by

For Obama, whose mother Ann Dunham, a white woman from Kansas, married his father, Kenyan native Barack Obama Sr., the question of his racial identity has been a lifelong struggle. His first memoir, "Dreams From My Father," is an account of a difficult journey of discovery.

I am confident as certain as the sun will set in the West that someone will read these accounts of Obama's census disclosure a political trick to smooch up with his black constituents which the last time I checked was about 90% favorable.

As the report also noted:

"The first black president!" exclaimed (black) comedian Wanda Sykes at a dinner last year of the White House Correspondents' Association.
"I'm proud to be able to say that. That's unless you screw up. And then it's going to be, 'What's up with the half-white guy?'" 

It doesn't surprise me that Jews and blacks are the best self-deprecating satirists America has to offer considering their historic struggles for equality and acceptance in our society.

I often wish others would be so forgiving and crack a nonracial joke occasionally.

One looks at the polls and wonders what's going on. The birthers refuse to believe Obama was born in Hawaii. A frightening number think he is a) the anitchrist, b) a Nazi, c) a socialist, d) a Muslim, e) hates white people, f) unAmerican, g) an apologist and h) all of the above.

The bigotry knows no end. I read some time back there are those who fear Obama wants to send reparation checks to all blacks who can trace their ancestry in our nation to pre-Civil War slavery.

America is a melting pot where language becomes the common bond and ethnic prejudices and actions taken by their fathers, grandparents and great grandparents are touted or conveniently forgotten.

My mother was born and raised in Tennessee in 1903 and until the day she died in 1983 bit her tongue from calling  blacks "darkies." She refused to discuss family rumors that one of her Ellsworth clan was a carpetbagger following the Civil War.

I am an internal optimist and am warmed to read some social/political polls that hint our newer generations are more racially tolerant than their forefathers.

That's a healthy signal glancing towards the future.

I hope the guilt-ridden politicians who launched racial hiring and enrollment quotas and affirmative action programs will put such practices into the trash heap. As subjective as hiring and promotions can be, the system most fairly is based on merit. I lean towards the Darwinian side of the scales.

For every two steps we as a nation take forward, some white guy will force it back a step when a black, woman, Mexican, Muslim, Asian or anyone who doesn't share his color or religious beliefs succeeds where he fails.

Racial and religious intolerance will come to a slow stop when people learn to laugh at their own foibles and not exclusively at others.

Why the census questions ask our ethnic heritage and not, at least in the short form, our occupations and other pertinent data such as income or religious preference or means of recreation boggles my mind. At least it no longer asks us how many slaves we own.

I understand that in today's advanced technological environment there is a feeling Big Brother as in the book "1984" is looking over our shoulders. Admittedly, it is a frightful experience even seen only as an invasion of privacy.

What I don't understand is the conspiracy theory espoused by Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann that filling out the census form would send children to "indoctrination" camps.

Is America a great country, or what?

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer

No comments: