From the friend of a friend, these thoughts on racism:
What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review? What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said ‘I do’ to? What if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she was disabled and no longer measured up to his standards?
What if Michelle Obama had not only became addicted to pain killers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization? What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?
What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? What if McCain were a charismatic, eloquent speaker?
This is what unexamined racism does. When there’s a color difference, it rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and de-emphasizes negative qualities in another.
America is facing historic debt, two wars, a world that’s grown to distrust us, a tottering health care system, a weakened dollar, all-time high prison population, mortgage crisis, bank foreclosures, etc. You are the Boss… which team would you hire?
Columbia University – B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations.
Harvard – Juris Doctor, Magna cum Laude
University of Delaware – B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law – (J.D.)
United States Naval Academy (son and grandson of admirals) Class rank: 894 of 899
Hawaii Pacific University – 1 semester
North Idaho College – 2 semesters
University of Idaho – 2 semesters
University of Idaho – 3 semesters – B.A. in Journalism
PS: What if Barack Obama had an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter….
Unfortunately, this kind of narrow argument is the way this whole election has been framed, from both sides. It would be so easy to rewrite that same slanted post in McCain’s favor. Only a racist society would have 95% of one race voting based on color and denigrating the 5% of that race who vote on other issues as turncoats(see Essence magazine via cnn.com). Only a racist, sexist and agist media would frame the debate in terms of race, sex and age instead of the very real issues this nation faces. If a man comes back from five years captivity and torture, it doesn’t excuse his actions regarding his marriage, but it does make it more understandable. If Obama had had to go through anything remotely as challenging in his life, then perhaps, that particular comparison could be made. I think in your books you examine these kind of life-altering moments, especially in book 5 with Hannah.As a former professor, I’m sure you understand that education is not only found in the hallowed halls.When I hear people support Obama based on actual issues and world views, I have no problem. However, the sort of gross emotional analysis that has been making the email circuit is ridiculous.I happen to love your writing and am looking forward to book 6.
SRR — thank you for stopping by, and I am glad to hear you are looking forward to book six.
To your comment re this post, a few points:
You are absolutely right that there are many extremely intelligent and capable people out there who have not had the benefit of higher education. My father was one of them. In my view, Sarah Palin is not one of them. What her academic record says to me is that the goals she sets for herself are very low. What her rhetoric says to me is that she is unwilling or unable to distinguish truth from untruth, in the most straight forward and factual matters such as the findings of the Troopergate report.
Narrow arguments come along with sound-byte journalism, and the very best example of that, in my opinion, is the constant harping back to McCain’s POW time. Yes, he was a POW; yes, he deserves respect for that. But he doesn’t deserve a free pass, and that experience doesn’t qualify him for any particular role in the administration. In fact, I would argue that it makes him potentially less reliable when it comes to making reasoned, calm decisions about international conflict.
Obama has had challenges that McCain cannot even imagine. Racism and poverty are real, and Obama has survived and risen above those things that cause so many to collapse and give up.
You know what perspective I get from being an academic? None. Or at least, no more than anybody else. It is my opinion — my considered opinion — that a great deal of the discourse in this election is about race. It would be hard to imagine things otherwise, but that doesn’t make it right. I speak up because if I did not, I would be complicit.
Senator MCain has also had challenges which Senator Obama can’t begin to imagine. The fact that those challenges are not the same should make no difference. Senator Obama has chosen to shed light on the difficulties of his childhood; Senator McCain has chosen to focus on his POW status. We are all a product of our past — presidential candidates included — and no one should be asked to dismiss their challenges because someone else’s are perceived as being worse. To be absolutely frank, I’m getting weary of the ubiquitous race card. I’m not saying that racism doesn’t exist — of course it does — but must it be used every time something doesn’t suit? I truly believe that as long as the race card is played, things will never get any better. It’s not helpful and is a divider not a uniter. But, I also think some people want it that way, which is very sad to me. I won’t be voting for Obama — but it’s because I don’t agree with him. It has absolutely nothing to do with his skin color. It has everything to do with the issues.
Wow, I knew Palin was unqualified, but I had no idea she was THAT unqualified… Interesting. Disturbing, but interesting.
As a college instructor in mathematics and logic, I find your inferences and reasoning about Sarah Palin and her educational goals faulty. You can have no insight as to what goals she set for herself. Especially, considering todays athletes in college and the per cent of them that actually graduate, the answer to the question of why one goes to college is not necessarily to get an education. The reason many attend college is to get a job! All four of our political candidates attended college, some working their way through, some because it was family tradition and expected, and some because because others paid their way.My opinion of Sarah Palin is that she went to college like all the other candidates, to get a job. Considering the jobs she has held and that she was elected to at least two of them, I would say she set herself high goals.With respect to college education again, another web site criticized her because none of her children have gone to college. Neither have Barack Obama’s two girls gone to college and for the same reason. They are not old enough yet. Except possibly for Mrs. Palin’s oldest son who has chosen to enlist in service to his country, another worthy goal.
I’m responding to the last couple comments in one go–
Lynn — I agree that everybody has challenges; that’s a given. I don’t agree that all challenges are equally… well, challenging. Some people come out of a crucible stronger and more able; some never come out at all. And regarding the so-called race card — who is it exactly who has been playing it?
Barbara, why cite your degrees before voicing your opinion? Do you think they lend you some kind of authority? Maybe you think that because you worked hard to get those degrees, you believe that you deserve the consideration and respect that comes along with that kind of hard work.
I look at Sarah Palin’s record, I listen to her talk, I read reports from Alaska, and what I see is somebody who has nothing to recommend her. She deserves no respect or consideration. She aspires to one of the most powerful positions in the world, but h er record as mayor of a small town was abysmal. As governor she has accomplished nothing. She has abused her power for her own gratification and advancement. I can name people like her who are both highly educated and not educated at all. Her flitting around from one university to another indicates a lack of commitment to me. Her interviews indicate a horrifying lack of curiosity about the world, and a perverse pride in her own lack of experience. She is wholly and absolutely unqualified for the office of vice president.
Here’s an essay that says all of this much more clearly than I can.
Going back to the red print… That observation rings true for me.
The McCains are white and both grew up in higher social circles than I did. Somehow a lot of problematic behavior can be taken in stride without ruining the general public’s sense of them as Nice People and worthy of their positions.
On the other side of the perception, the Obamas don’t look like the white majority. Their personal achievements and demeanor bring them to a level where the nation as a whole views them very favorably. The quote Rosina posted asks “what if?” *IF* the Obamas had the exact personal history of the McCains, would the nation as a whole view them as *remotely* acceptable? That’s the point in red.
On the “Who would you hire?” question — In my life I’ve made a few really, really bad hiring decisions. Hiring the wrong person for the job is really awful, it can make a terrible mess. The mistakes I’ve made were because I liked an individual, or I was really impressed with one of their personal qualities. And either they turned out to have *other* personal qualities I hadn’t seen at first, or, they weren’t able to do the job we needed to fill. Sometimes I felt a kinship with a person because they had something in common with me, or reminded me of someone I had liked.
Sometimes the bullet points I had noticed most on their resumes didn’t tell the real story of what they had done. Sometimes the most important information on the resume was what had been left out or artfully edited. Sometimes the personal quality that I had really enjoyed in an interview was actually a *drawback* in the job.
I think Sen. McCain’s experience as a POW was a searing test of personal honor and commitment. But. We’re hiring for one of the toughest jobs in the world, at a time when the problems of that job are much worse than they were even a year ago. Personal honor and love of country are two important qualities. But they are only two on a long list of skills and qualifications that will be needed in the Oval Office. We all need to sit back and look carefully at both applicants’ work records, look at the facts of achievement behind the headlines on the bullet points of the resumes. And as we do that, we need to also watch out for our personal perceptual habits — I don’t want to overlook warning signs because I feel a general comfort or kinship with someone’s background, and I don’t want to score a good applicant too low because I didn’t stop to look at the whole picture.
Charlotte — you make an excellent point. Thanks.
Back in 2000, I remember being amazed and shocked by the ‘who would you rather have a beer with’ discussions. Bush seemed to many like a nice guy while Gore was an intellectual geek who rarely smiled. If you need major surgery and you have the choice between two surgeons, do you pick the nicest of the two, or the one who is best qualified? The chances that I’ll ever be in a position to sit down over a beer with this person? Nill. I’ll take the intellectual geek.
Well, that (link) was interesting reading (though I had to give up after a couple of pages worth of replies — just not enough time and it was getting repetitive). I’m not sure that “racism” and “privilege” are the same thing. Is someone who is white and, by that standard, privileged, automatically a racist? At any rate, what’s the antidote to white privilege? I did not see any solutions.
There was a letter–to-the-editor in my local newspaper just the other day which claimed that the reason white southerners weren’t voting for Obama was due to racism. Maybe I’m naive but this really bothered me — because the writer seemed to be indicating that folks should vote for Senator Obama because he is black — and for no other reason. It takes quite a bit to offend me but this line of reasoning really does.
The people I really feel bad for are black Republicans who are called turncoats or Uncle Toms because they are not supporting Obama or the Democrat party. This absolutely boggles my mind. Here’s an interesting link, though I’m the first to admit one can always find something on the internet to support one’s position. if you look hard enough.
Okay, that’s enough for me, between here and my own blog, I’m pretty well tired of myself.
Lynn — Well, I’m not tired of you. That is an interesting link, and you’re right, anybody can argue anything. I would never, ever call somebody who votes for McCain racist on the basis of that vote. I absolutely believe that your choices are based on your assessment of the country’s needs.
I think I’m particularly sensitive to this issue because my father and his family were terribly racist, and it upset me even as a kid. The thing was, they were otherwise good people. Kind and generous (for the most part), except when color raised its head. And a lot of the time the racism was of such a neutral, every-day tone that it took my breath away. Something Palin said really pushed this button for me, something like ‘He doesn’t see things the way you and I see them.’ That’s exactly the kind of thing an aunt or cousin would say to me when I argued with them about this stuff: they aren’t like us.
You do realize I’m not pointing at you when I talk about this. I hope.
Don’t worry — I’m good! And here I am even though I said I was done…but I actually wanted to comment on what you said about your relatives. I understand where you are coming from on this — as you know, I was born and bred and still live in the deep south — and while I think, nowadays, the south isn’t any more racist than any other part of the country (I’m sure there are folks who would disagree with that), back in the “old days” it most certainly was. While my parents (and most of their contemporaries) would never actually do harm to anybody, there was definitely a great divide between the races — and it still exists — for them — to this day. Is it right? Hell, no — however, it’s the way they are and nothing much is going to change them at this stage of their lives (in their 80s). I’ve never heard my mother (or my father who’s long gone) ever say anything overtly racist but, yeah, it was there and I will not deny it. At any rate, I’ve always felt that it wasn’t up to me to change them but to make sure I didn’t think the same way — and, to the best of my ability, make sure my children don’t think that way. I will say one thing on the Palin quote — I think this may be a good example of how people can see things in different ways — I didn’t see that as racist in the least but as a statement of the differences — politically — between Republicans and Democrats!
Excellent! Go Obama! Go Obama! Go Obama! Open your eyes folks! The change we need is here for the taking! Vote for Barack Obama! We need strong, intelligent leadership.
I live in Ottawa, Canada, and we just had our elections this week. Of course, Steven Harper, Conservative, won again. For those who don’t know, he was in power but with a minority government. So he decided to call an election and try to get a majority gov. Well. He did win, but with a minority again. So all this money wasted. Only about 59% of the population voted. It was a record low. I wish we had had someone as charismatic as Obama to vote for.
What an excellent point you bring up!
I am so tired of this election…I can’t wait to vote and be done with it. No one can tell what the outcome will be until it is in action. Politicians have become the most frightening individuals to me…they all say one thing and then do another…they all have skeletons in their closets. I am sick of the mudslinging and the media crap…please god please make the next few weeks go quicker! My daddy gave me the best advice in the world…2 things to avoid whilst speaking with friends, if you really like your friends are 1. religion 2. politics. And that is not to say that I am not opinionated…but opinions are just like big toes…most everyone’s got them! Take Care to all of you…Happy voting…and keep on writing Rosina…you are amazing!
One of the most interesting things about the racism discussion, in my mind, is the way in which many people quickly, as evidenced here, try to dismiss its potency. I think the most powerful part of this pa is that it speaks of modern racism, not the racism of yesteryear the racism we all can joyfully reject. In my opinion, white people, myself included, fight the idea of modern day racism because it forces all of us to aknowledge the many ways that we have it easier – and people hate to think they might have it easier. The bottom line of this election is that it cannot be seperated from the race discussion – it is the first of its kind, that is the nature of any first – get over it – this election is going to be discussed in broad terms, because it heralds a whole new era. Secondly – Obama and his wife had to go above and beyond any concievable standard just to be considered – this is not the case for white politicians, but is the case for people of color across the board – when you are white your given the benefit of the doubt (you are from a good background, you are approachable) perhaps, if you have a strong accent or don’t wear the right clothes this isn’t the case (classism is rampant as well) nonetheless white people can change their appearence, how they are percieved, for others that is often not the case – ask and you will know! I’m reiterating things other people have pointed out – I just wanted to support those opinions for I hold them myself. Its easy to think something does not effect others if it does not effect you or if its not tangilbe, viewable – but no white person can be truly aware of how racism works in this country – and we all need to get over that too. For those of you who are tired of the election – it will end soon – and whatever the results, it will affect your daily life profoundly – therefore I don’t find your position very compelling. Just becuase Obama has experienced racism does not mean hes qualified to run this country, but by denying that experience, or minimizing or attempting to flip the tables, you partake in modern day racism.The initial blog is about credentials – facts – of course these are not the only credentials that influence an election but we can all agree they are important, education defines a person as much as anything – if you recall a question was asked, no opinion was expressed. Those of you who rushed to McCain’s defense only do so becuase you feel in this respect he needs to be defended, that somehow the question belittles him – but that is the whole point of the question isn’t it? If he did not lack something, the question would not feel like an attack. Any defense only more elequently expresses the lower standards McCain is held to. I’ve definatly beaten a dead donkey – and I apologize, I was just surprised by the responses of others.
I am so sorry that these two are the best either party could offer. But there is one glaring problem with Obama that I can’t get past. He is a socialist. He’s finally admitted it. Redistribution of wealth means that someone else’s ‘need’ (as defined by Obama) is a mortgage on the lives of the people that are rich (as defined by Obama).That’s not freedom and I am passionate about freedom. I was homeless once and I NEVER FOR ONE SECOND expected anyone to help me….and certainly not the government. I eventually found work. I worked my way up the ladder, The money I made is MINE and if I decide to give some of it away that should be MY decision. We are fast losing our freedoms in this country and McCain will certainly not be fighting consistantly for our freedoms, but Obama has clearly stated that he intends to take by force even more money from people that have done well to redistribute as he sees fit. It’s terrible to see how many in this country hate the rich and the corporations. No wonder so many are heading to other countries. As a final note: I met a Russian girl last week and she said she is shocked at how willing, how eager we are to give away our freedoms. These are sad times for those of us that understand and love freedom and individual rights and the principles this country was founded upon.
Erin — thank you for that very eloquent comment. I’m glad you made the point that having been discriminated against doesn’t qualify an individual for anything, because I forget to state it sometimes. You said “Just becuase Obama has experienced racism does not mean hes qualified to run this country, but by denying that experience, or minimizing or attempting to flip the tables, you partake in modern day racism,” and that gets to the heart of the matter.
Judy, I think we will have to agree to disagree. ‘Socialism’ is not a dirty word as far as I’m concerned. I really don’t mind paying taxes, and I would pay more if I knew that those funds were going to education and health care for children (for example). I don’t feel like Obama (or anyone in his camp) is threatening me, and I don’t fear the idea of sharing the wealth. The categorial imperative, and all that.
I came from a strictly working class family, too. There were some very thin years, and there was no money for college. Like you I worked for what I got. Luckily things were never so bad that I had to ask for welfare or foodstamps, but I’m glad to know that those things would have been available to me if I had needed them. I can imagine situations in which I would have to ask for and accept help. Catastrophic injury or illness that exhausts insurance and other resources, for example. I hope never to be in that situation, but I pay my fair share knowing that it could be me one day standing in line for medicare benefits. I hope in that situation to be able to maintain my dignity, and knowing that I contributed when I could would be part of that.
I have read Obama’s tax plans and a number of different reviews of those plans from a number of perspectives, and i am comfortable with his plans. He has some good ideas about how to generate revenue outside of income tax, for example.
Obama is not without flaw, and he will make decisions I won’t like — he already has — but to me, he represents real possibility of positive change.
1. The last 2 or 3 comments are always on top of the next topic; so they’re pretty much impossible to read. (MS IE)2. I’m ready for all those newspapers to be on line so that I can search for myself and read who said what and when. And who voted for what and when.3. Thanks for the data. Most interesting.
I’m unclear what you mean by comments being on top of the next topic — could you possibly email me a screenshot?
I read this blog on Monday and walked away with out posting. Since then, at various times the comments posted have creeped into my thoughts. Enough so that here I sit replying to a blog that has not had a posting since Sunday. There are 3 things that bother me about the comments posted. 1) In the news lately a lot has been said about Obama’s associations. Most say that they do not matter. If they do not matter then how come once they become a liability Obama throws them under the bus. He has done this time and again. To me his Grandmother can be associated with this group as well. He did not paint a very good picture of her in one of his books. You do not drop people just because they become a liability. This I feel says a lot about a person. Will Obama drop America when we become a liability?2) We are not a socialist country. We were not founded to be one and God willing we never will be. We are generous people whp give willing. We do not need the Government to tax from us to give to others. Rosina you even qualified your willingness to give through taxes. However, with redistribution of wealth you do not get a choice.3) The comment about Palin’s daughter. I do not think anyone on this blog would have faulted you if you left it out. What that child must be going through. I think it is dispictable that the media has thrown her into the lime light. In an effort to what show the Palin is not a good mother? How many mothers who have been told the same thing by their daughters whould differ with that statement? As parents we do out best but in the end kids no matter thier age are people too. They make their own choices. These two kids have a rough enough road ahead without the meida crushing down on them. It is just a sad day in Ameirca when people think it is acceptible to go this low.
Now that I have voiced my opinion, I have to go clean up a bottle of glue off of my son and table. I will jut leave this final thought. What is up with the press? Why does it seem that they are so desperately trying to make us ashamed to be Americans? Linda
Linda — I’m glad you decided to comment. I don’t expect everybody to agree with me, and I appreciate the effort you put into making your points.
I don’t have a lot of time just now, but a couple of points.
First, it seems a bad idea to me to start cherry picking acquaintances out of a candidate’s past. Obama’s campaign has not done this, though there are plenty of shady characters in McCain’s past, some of them far worse than Ayers. The names that the McCain campaign keeps raising are Ayers, Rezko and Wright. I have looked into each of these accusations and read material from both sides, included some very virulent anti-Obama websites, and I am satisfied that Obama acted in good faith in each of those instances.
Second, taxation is always a redistribution of wealth. Obama wants to roll back the tax cuts to the wealthy to the Clinton-era levels; to me that feels more like fairness. This is the worse kind of fear mongering, and it makes me angry. Not at you, but at the campaign.
Finally, Palin herself has brought her children onto the national stage repeatedly. Most candidates do. The point was not to criticize her for her parenting skills — I have no idea what kind of mother she is — but to ask a question. Would the Obamas be treated the same way if they had a pregnant, sixteen year old daughter? That’s the question. I think, given the tone of the McCain campaign, that the answer is no.
I love your comments about the election. I believe very strongly in the Obamas and don’t know how I will face this country if they lose. Also, you are my favorite author!!! Your Into the Wilderness series are my favorite books especially since Last of the Mohicans is my favorite movie. Please write more!!