February 17, 2010
In the movie South Pacific there is a particularly poignant moment when Nellie meets Emile’s children from his first wife. She is very much interested in marrying Emile but Emile has kept his children from her sight until this moment. With a look of disdain Nellie backs away from Emile and cannot marry him because the children are brown. Emile then sings “You have to be carefully taught” to be prejudiced. Nellie’s inability to accept the children came from what she was taught about being white and the privileges that go with that. Let this be the backdrop for today’s column about divisions in our society.
Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), said in a private conversation in 2008 that the country was ready to elect a black man as President, especially one like Obama who is “light-skinned' African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” according to the Christian Science Monitor (1). President Obama accepted Reid’s apology. Others called for Reid’s resignation, comparing his comments to Trent Lott’s public statement that “we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years” if the segregationist Strom Thurmond had won the Presidency in 1948. (2)
black men like Boyce Watkins, a professor of finance and social commentator at
talk personality said that President Obama and his administration will use the
pastor said on his national TV show that
We have generally described racism as hatred or discrimination against a race other than one’s own. But as the Anatomy of Peace says, “'If you see people of a particular race or culture as objects … your view of them is racist, whatever your color or lack of color or your power or lack of power.” It applies to “all divisions, whether between rich and poor, old and young, educated and uneducated, religious and nonreligious, Catholic and Protestant, Shia and Sunni.” (6)
Recently South Carolina Lt. Gov. André Bauer, running for governor on the GOP ticket. likened “the poor to stray animals.” And his grandmother taught him not to feed stray animals because “they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply.” (7) That’s racism too. His comments scarcely received public notice, much less criticism.
have called for a dialog on race in this country. Candidate Obama took up this
challenge when he delivered a remarkable address on race in
Being white in
This white identity becomes so deeply engrained that poor whites do not even recognize their natural solidarity with poor people of other races. Even though both groups share the same condition, whites fail to see it and distance themselves socially as well. As whites grow up they don’t even recognize this characteristic of being white. Thandeka. further wrote that this white identity allowed whites socially and legally “to taunt, police, humiliate, mob, rape, lynch, jibe, rob, jail, mutilate, and burn” black people. White identity camouflaged the immorality of these actions. Some of these are dramatically described in a recent novel called The Help.
I have a dream, to paraphrase Martin Luther King’s famous speech, that one day people will see each other as human beings, regardless of race, gender, religious affiliation, country of origin, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. May that day come soon.
(1) “Harry Reid: racist or political realist?”, Christian Science Monitor,
(2) “Lott apologizes for Thurmond comment”, CNN, December 10, 2002.
(3) Leonard Pitts January 13, 2010
Mike Thompson, January 15, 2010
(5) “Pat Robertson:
Has the prayer allegedly used which sounds like a prayer to God, not Satan. Site also debunks other claims about this alleged “pack with the devil:. The natives rejected the Christian God as oppressive.
(6) Arbinger Institute, The
Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict.
(7) Leonard Pitts Jr. “Public silence greets poor's powerlessness”, Miami Herald 02.02.10, http://www.miamiherald.com/living/columnists/leonard-pitts/story/1454250.html
``He'' is South Carolina Lt. Gov. André Bauer, running for governor on the GOP ticket. Speaking of those who receive public assistance, he recently told an audience, ``My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better.''
(9) Thandeka , The Cost of Whiteness,