The Unbearable Banishment: the one where i alienate the few readers i have left

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the one where i alienate the few readers i have left

I didn’t make any new friends with my last post—someone even took me to task in the comments section for being too old and out of touch to comprehend rap music—and this sure isn’t going to help matters.

I was able to watch quite a bit of today’s news coverage of President Obama’s inauguration and I am in full agreement with my colleague Daisyfae; there was WAAAAYY too much emphasis placed on the fact that he is African American. We don’t have a new black President, folks. We have a new President.

Prior to the election, there was a fear that white America was just paying lip service to the pollsters. There was a theory that Joe/Jane Sixpack would say they were voting for Obama but once inside the voting booth, he/she would never pull the lever for a black man. They even gave it a name: The Bradley Effect. Well, it turns out that white America didn’t give a shit about the pigment in Obama’s skin. We voted for him because he was clearly the right man for the job.

So why did today’s media coverage obsess on the fact that he's black? While it’s important to acknowledge the historical significance of the moment, it’s practically an insult to give the short shift to his qualifications and accomplishments and talk, talk, talk of little else but his black father and black wife and black children.

Daisyfae said it more elegantly than I did. Would the last reader out please extinguish the lights.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

nah... i'm guessing this post will win back your readers. if only out of morbid curiosity to see what's said next, but still... they'll hang with you. i'm right with you and DF on this topic. i'm sick and tired of race being used as an excuse... for anyone of any color.

January 20, 2009 at 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It hasn't been an easy excuse to use for a few years or more now - and I am just speaking as a former public school teacher. Poverty and poor parenting was the fall back for most under and non-achievers. But there was still a small segment of minorities who fell back on supposed racism when all else failed. And there was the odd instance where they were right, but not recently. As late as the mid-90's, I still had old timer co-workers who were racist as hell and totally clueless to the fact. Made me nuts and didn't win me friends in at least one building I taught in when I pointed it out. But I saw more adults and kids who were simply isolated rather than bigoted and once regular contact was made - were fine.

It's really is all about who and what you know and once you know, it's all good.

Oh, and I didn't comment on the previous post because - what was there to add? There were always be people who seek the lowest level regardless of their genetic make-up.

January 20, 2009 at 10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i hacked up my rant in about 10 minutes, while flittering around in a hotel room trying to get ready for a day of meetings... if i'd given it more thought? might have self-censored... BUT we write for ourselves out here.

my mom got into a heated argument with a friend of hers last week. friend was dropping the "N-bomb" liberally, and mom wasn't going to let it pass. Go Momma Chick!

Annie's right - there are still many folks who DO see this as a color issue. Both the annoying trolls in the media and the uneducated/isolated rednecks in the trenches... but frustrating to still be having this conversation 40 years after the voting rights act? you bet...

January 20, 2009 at 11:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an interesting debate.

I'm a white bread Canadian, born and bread. Born in Ontario and spent my formative years there in a slightly suburban development.

My dad was bigoted and prejudiced. He grew up hating French Canadians, largely because his dad did. He also despised the immigrants of his day, mostly eastern Europeans. That cause was not helped when his oldest brother was killed by an immigrant in a street fight they were both involved in. He also had a low opinion of native peoples from his days in the RCMP in western Canada.

I think I saw my first "non-white" person - an Asian - in either first or second grade. By the time I hit junior high or high school, we had a (one!) black family with kids in our school.

I then moved west with my parents to Alberta, where I experienced my first brush with real rascism. Against native people, mostly.

1973 was a watershed year for Canada. Then PM Pierre Trudeau was instrumental in turning Canadian immigration policy on its ear, reducing the numbers from traditional sources of immigrants (U.K. and western Europe) and increasing the numbers from the third world: India, China, Africa.

Most of these new immigrants went to the major cities, like Toronto, so I did not experience this influx first hand.

After the US pull out from South Vietnam, Canada found itself taking in many of the "boat people". Our small town in NW Alberta sponsored a couple of families.

I guess, for me, the presence of visible minorities had always been more of a curiosity than a source of suspicion, hatred and prejudice.

That's not to say that I didn't harbour such feelings. How could I not, given the environment I grew up in?

Where I differ, I suppose, is in the manner in which I outgrew that mindset. To the point where encountering such attitudes in subsequent trips "home" was offensive and startling.

By the time I hit university in the mid-'80's, the diverse nature of urban populations made it normal to see a spectrum of skin tones in day to day life. Prejudice and racism still existed (and probably still exist) but it's not overt and it's only present in a minority of people.

My own attitude evolved into an approach where I judge individuals and I judge them on their merit. So, in essence, it mattered little what race or gender a person was. It was who they were and how they conducted themselves that mattered.

It was quite a shock to me when I encountered racism after accepting a job in SE Kansas in the '90's. That people could not only think such things, but say them out loud was something I found troubling. And yet it seemed so entrenched, so systemic.

I remember someone telling me, almost proudly, that the small town we lived in still had a "Sundowner law" on the books.


Subsequent visits to the US have shown me that much has not changed in the intervening years in some places.

This seems to be echoed in media talking heads. I didn't watch any of the coverage (or listen via CNN or Fox audio on XM) so I only have your post (and daisyfae's) to go from. But, I had previously concluded that the talking heads are assholes for the most part and they will pander to whatever audience they think will bring them the greatest amount of advertising revenue.

I grew up thinking/being taught that the US was this "nasty, scary" place. Living there during the Clinton years helped me realize that, although different, the US was neither nasty nor scary, for the most part. I even contemplated emigrating there.

Changes under Bush43 negated that. The US lost all of its attractiveness to me. I lost all interest in becoming part of the US.

Now my hope is that President Obama can somehow undo much of that and return the country to some semblance of what it was before Bush43. Can he do it, given the nature of today's time? Don't know. Time will tell.

That Obama is identified as a black man is pretty much irrelevant where I'm concerned.

(Sorry for the long - and rambling - comment.)

January 21, 2009 at 12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think in lieu of Obama's election, it will be much harder to make race an issue on either side. We just elected a black man to the most powerful position in the free world, not because he was black, but because he was the best candidate. End of story.


January 21, 2009 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Gnu: Hope you’re right about not losing my vast readership. I spend enough time talking to a wall.

Annie: Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for “old timer racists.” That may sound very Mary Poppins of me but I choose to believe it.

Daisy: Nice work. It took you just :10 minutes to succinctly and perfectly say while I spent (mumble mumble mumble) putting the same thoughts together.

Rob: That was actually a very interesting history lesson. And, no, that’s not another one of my clever sarcasms (this time). Thanks!

SA: …not because he was black, but because he was the best candidate.
That’s EXACTLY why I felt they spent too much time dwelling on President Obama’s race.

January 21, 2009 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger JZ said...

While i'm not tolerant of racism at all, I do understand its motivations and origins. In its most primitive states, man sought safety and security in the tribe and a clear identification an "Us" and a "Them". From these most primitive of origins, racism emerges as the most brutal and rudimentary of all survival instincts. I'm confident we'll breed this out of mankind's genetics as we continually and consistently demonstrate that we are all ultimately a part of the same tribe. And without cooperation and tolerance, we will, indeed, perish from this earth. Gotta keep on, keep on movin'....

January 21, 2009 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger Sid said...

If I were American and given the chance to vote I would have picked Obama just so that Palin doesn't get anywhere near office. Climate change is not a myth! Also I've heard that Obama is going to close down Guantanamo Bay ... Clearly he is more than just a black man.

January 22, 2009 at 12:10 AM  
Blogger Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

I had this conversation with a friend the other day...I understand the historical connotations of a black man becoming president, and it's so amazing that society has come from the pitfalls of slavery to this. But let's push things forward: he's a man, not a black man. He's a president, not a black president. We've got to stop this colour prefix.

January 25, 2009 at 1:06 PM  
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November 13, 2009 at 6:54 PM  

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