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Racism & Bigotry in America Today

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Yesterday's events in the political sphere have brought the issues of racism and bigotry in our country back into my thoughts. When President Obama acquiessed to the repeated demands that he 'show his papers', our country reverted to how it was over a hundred years ago and up to our more recent history of the twentieth century where anyone who wasn't white or christian would often find themselves second-class citizens, or even worse. Yet, people will act shocked to the core when confronted with their own racism and declare "I am not a racist!" or "That's not racism!". About fifteen years ago, I had a conversation with my own grandmother that was just like that.

"I'm not a racist." She told me when I confronted her about refusing to let my cousin and her newborn child into her home. "This is my home. I choose who I let in and who I don't, and I don't want any of them in my home. Let them go live where they want, work where they want. We can't stop them thanks to the courts, but that's their business. I still can refuse to let them in my home, and that girl got herself pregnant by a negro and I don't have to let her child in this house."

Yes, she was still upset about the Supreme Court overtuning the California Ballot Proposition that established the right of homeowners to refuse people of different color or religion from living in their neighborhoods. It wasn't just black people, either. She didn't want hispanics, asians, or non-christians around her either. We didn't talk for about three years after that discussion, largely because I was so angered by her racism and her refusal to even admit it was racism. To her, racists were those folks in white sheets that strung the negros up or drug them behind their trucks. Good, ordinary folk were the ones who didn't want negros going to the same schools or being able to buy homes in the same neighborhood as good white folk. There was no problem with stopping people in the neighborhood just because of their skin color, or their religion.

In the mid-nineties she had people move in next door who had really dark skin color, and all hell broke loose. Any time one of them even looked at her, she was on the phone calling the police. Her house was locked tight every night and she must have spent most of those early nights shivering in fear in her bed, unable to go to sleep. She ended up in the hospital after a few months of this, and was put on some anxiety medication until she was finally able to accept that she had people living next door that weren't white.

Then the muslims moved into that house down the street, and she was convinced that they were going to blow up the entire street. If you think that's bad, when the Mexicans moved in across from her, she became convinced they were going to kidnap her and sell her into white slavery.

Thankfully she died several years before Barack Obama ran for President, because I don't think I could have withstood her reactions to a black man running for President. I know she would have been convinced there was no legitimate way he could be President. Most likely she would never accept him as President and would grab onto any straw that would point to him being illegitimate.

Oh yes, she would definitely had been a Birther, demanding he show his papers, his long-form birth certificate. Never mind that the long-form birth certificate has NO LEGAL VALUE. In fact, unlike the short-form that Obama provided in 2008, the long form CANNOT be used as identfication or to prove citizenship. Hawaii certifies only the short-form certificate as LEGAL proof of brith, and he showed that in 2008. The form people have clamored for over the past three years is not the legal document. They've had the legal document, but they don't want to accept it, because accepting it is to accept the legitimacy of his Presidency.

As soon as President Obama provided this long-form document that has no legal merit, the 'controversy' was not ended. Instead of having their doubts answered, the doubts immediately shifted onto his college transcripts. The demand of "SHOW ME YOUR PAPERS!" continued, but now on a new topic that no white President would be forced to provide. Hell, I didn't like George W. Bush, and I don't think he was properly elected in 2000, but even I had to admit he was the legitimate President of the United States and his taking the office of President was legal. But to those who don't want to admit we have a black President, no document will ever suffice. If President Obama showed all of his transcripts today, it would be something else they would demand to prove he wasn't illegitimate. It's kind of like a black man walking down a public street in 1899 America.


It reminds me of a new arrival in my division back when I was in the Navy. This guy had no problem with a black member of our division, who was the same rank as him. He did have a problem with the black guy who was in charge of our division. One night, after quite a few drinks in a bar overseas, he finally admitted to me the core of his problem. "I ain't got a problem with them blacks working with us. I get it that's the way things are now, but none of them should be able to tell ME what to do." It isn't a stretch to imagine this guy is one of those currently demanding that President Obama show his papers.

Nor is it hard to imagine that MOST (not all) of the clamor is from people who have a discomfort with the idea of a non-white person being in charge of them and their country. They might feel it's fine for 'those people' to live here, work here, and even hold positions of authority. Yet, put one of 'those people' in charge, and there are problems. Most likely they will never admit the problem is the color of their skin, or their religion, so they will focus on ANYTHING that will deligitimize their status as a leader. When you take away that current focus, the focus will shift to something else, and so on and so forth.

That is how you can tell if racism or bigotry is behind something. Prove the fallacy of their argument, and it will shift to something else. That is because the bottom line is not that they don't think Barack Obama was really born in the U.S., it's because he's black and deep down, so deep they can rarely admit it to themselves, they can't believe a black man can be THEIR President. It's sad, but instead of getting rid of racism completely, I think we have merely shoved the racism down so deep that people won't even admit it in themselves.

As a country we have come a long way in how we treat people who are different from us. Yet, as this birther controversy has shown, we have a great deal further to go before we are able to put the stamp of "deceased" over the demand to "Show me your papers!".

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I don't want to give the wrong image of my grandmother. Certainly what I described was a part of who she was as a person, but she was also the person who taught me to be a good person to others. It's just that people who weren't white didn't equate to being part of who she thought should be in my life. The fight we had about my sexuality was about the same time as I stopped talking to her, and it was three years of not talking that finally brought her around to being a LITTLE more accepting until Alzheimers took all that away.

I loved her greatly, and appreciated all the good she did in her life. However, I refuse to blind myself to the parts of her that were less than beautiful, less than ideal. It is very possible to hold racist beliefs and still be a basically good person. That doesn't negate the racism though, or the need to change that racism.

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I'd never met anyone who is an avowed racist, though I've met a lot of people who are avowed homophobes. I understand it's the same thing on a different scale. When we studied Racism in America in AP U.S. History in high school it was an eye opener for me. This leads into what I recently experienced.

Out of curiosity I went to the Tea Party rally in Pleasanton, California two weeks ago. It's not far from the town where I was born and raised. I saw a lot of anti-gay pro-Proposition 8 signs, End Obamacare! signs, Impeach Obama! signs, but the signs that really bothered me were the ones that read "Take America Back!" which were in the majority. Back from whom, I asked an elderly woman who was carrying one of those signs. "The niggers and the Jews and the queers who have stolen America from us!" she replied. So now I've met an avowed racist. "Who is the us?" I asked. She became belligerent, upset because I obviously wasn't a believer in what her sign said. I listened to the speeches and heard the roars of agreement from the crowd, most on the topic "Take America Back". It is frightening to think that most of the reported ten thousand people at the rally believed the same as this woman. :shock:

Colin :icon_geek:

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Colin, I'm very proud to know you and others who think like you do, but as you grow, you will see that America is not a perfect place. Actually, no place on this planet is perfect and our fight for equality will probably never end. But...that is not to say that we give up. I (New Mexico GLBTQ Centers) was just given a grant of $ 22,500 from the city of Las Cruces for our youth program, but it wasn't a unanimous decision either. One of the people on the committee graded our application with a very low score, not because of what we wanted to do with the funds for gay youth, but BECAUSE we wanted to do something for GAY youth. Bigotry still exists in America and will be dealt with for generations to come.

Don't give up your idealism when you see bigotry out there. It's people like you that will cause change to happen.


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