Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wading into politics...again

I try to avoid politics on this blog, but every once in a while I have to.

CNN wrote a piece about Attorney General Eric Holder who called America a 'Nation of Cowards'. Why are we cowards? From the article:

""Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Holder declared.

"Holder urged Americans of all races to use Black History Month as a time to have a forthright national conversation between blacks and whites to discuss aspects of race which are ignored because they are uncomfortable.

"The attorney general said employees across the country "have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace," but he noted that "certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks at best embarrassment and at worst the questioning of one's character."

"On Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago. This is truly sad," Holder said."

I agree with Holder 100 percent. I think there are topics that are 'off limits' and we hesitate to explore them. Why? Well, because if we try to explore them, we are often called racists. Consider a 'scandal' that is currently going on right now.

Sean Delonas draws comics for the New York Post. His most recent is being called not just offensive and violent, but yes...racist. You can see the comic here. Al Sharpton had this to say about it:

""The cartoon in today's New York Post is troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys. One has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this when in the cartoon they have police saying after shooting a chimpanzee that "Now they will have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill.""

However, how many of us have seen images like this over the past eight years? Heck, there is even a web site devoted to the topic. Who is more racists, the artist comparing Obama to a monkey, or the person declaring that comparing Obama to a monkey is racism? Maybe Delonas was just doing what we've been happily doing in this country since 1776--making fun of our leaders.

Let me be very clear. I think it is very disrespectful to compare or call any sitting president (heck, any person for that matter) a monkey. I didn't find the pictures of Bush and monkeys funny, nor do I find the comic hinting at Obama funny. But if we are to move past being a 'nation of cowards', and be able to discuss "certain subjects are off limits" then we need Al Sharpton and other similar folks to stop crying racism anytime something like this occurs. How can we 'explore' these topics when everytime we try we risk "at best embarrassment and at worst the questioning of one's character."

I think the Attorney General is dead on. But until we can truly discuss these things without being called racist, nothing will change. We will all smile at each other, we will all be friendly at the office, but deep down we will constanlty worry about what we are saying. We won't be able to open up and really have the discussions that need to take place.


Anonymous said...

Most Americans steer far away from talks about race because of the chastising of those who attempt to speak their thoughts and then are soundly punished... JImmy the greeks comments got him fired by ABC, Fuzzy Zellers comments after Tiger Woods won the masters are examples.

Mr Attorney General.. The sensitivity in the black community over jokes are so overblown that you have created an atmosphere where people just don't want to go there..

Anonymous said...

I was afraid when we elected a Black (what he isn't black, he's tan and a very mixed race like I am!!!!!) Race would be an issue. I've had enough of Civil Rights, Al Sharpten, all of them.. I am not WHITE like Michael Jackson, I am an American, whose skin is sort of pinkish, tan. Get those fat lazy women with 4-5 kids off of their big fat A.. and playing Bingo and using Food stamps and Welfare and get out there an work like we have all these years to keep them in their I call them Zoo's because half of them live with a white man. I'm sick and tired of this Black History month, Zwana or what ever right at Christmas, Martin Luther King day, when our greatest presidents are not honored. Ok Lets start this all you people March is Irish Month. April is Jewish month. July is English month, October is German month and maybe some of you can come up with other moths and nationalities to celebrate. Slavery went out hundreds of years ago, we had nothing to do with it, nor anyone living or evern generations living have. Their own people sold them into slavery. They dress up like Queens, ever see the real people in Africa. Skinny, in rags. We halp them out also. Do they help them selves??? No. I worked all my life, my son in law drives 180 miles a day to work. My daughter worked with knees that had bone on bone. Calling us Cowards is the worst thing he could do, he just better take his polished mustache and spill his racism somewhere else, this is my country and I'm not going to have an attorney General that is Racist which he is, very definetly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

While I agree with the AG that we should be more open to discussing and exploring issues of racial and ethical differences, I fail to see how discussing this during "black" history month should differ from any other month. I personally am tired of the continued segregation from all sides and believe we will never be able to move past these issues until we stop classifying people based on color, religion, sex, etc. I understand the need to remember the past and learn from it but when will we as humans let go and stop living the past to move forward into our future. It's ironic that we claim to try and remember and honor our history yet we segregate it and the people past and present by giving those times and events separative names. I can only hope my children will be able to make better strides than my generation has.

Anonymous said...

Glad that at least on weekends America remains America we love! Love watching old 50' movies, no violence, no bad language, no motherfuckers!
That was America!

Anonymous said...

I also agree with Holder 100 percent and by virtue of my agreement with him I am thus also in agreement with you Matthew Buckley about his words. However, I differ slightly in perspective with you on a few things. There have been historically topics that have been considered 'off limits' and our hesitation to explore them is because these topics are "charged" in that they have a tendency to incite a wide array of negative feelings ranging from anger, to frustration, to disappointment, to fear, to regret, and yes even ire. Many people avoid such topics more because of the expected reaction than the reality. I frequently hear people saying they don't want to talk about such topics because they think the other party will overreact. But if one were to steps into the other’s shoes, they may note that some people don’t want to talk about such topics because they feel people will under-react (and thus make them appear to be over-reacting even more). The truth is that some persons (Both Black and White) DO react strongly when prompted with certain topics. But that more often has do with HOW the topic is approached rather than WHAT the topic is.

The use of the terms "Black" and "White" are not without controversy of their own, but that is another discussion. I will use them here for simplicity’s sake and ease of illustration. Frequently there exists a disconnect when, for example, someone who is Black feels frustrated by a perceived failure of a person who is White to comprehend their frustration with a particular issue. At the same time the White person may be frustrated by what they perceive as an overreaction to the issue. Often this does stem from misunderstanding of from where the issue derives its "charge”.

Lets use the example that you suggested of the “monkey” reference. It is true George Bush has many times been compared to a monkey over his eight years in office. So why is it so different in the eyes of Al Sharpton (and many Blacks) when someone does the same with Obama?

Whether it is the "monkey reference" or the "N-word" these put downs have an historical context in that they (among many other words) have been used extensively to denigrate Blacks particularly before the time of the Civil Rights Movement and during the time of slavery. The same references are still in use by some people today. Those who were subject to these slurs and remarks are often very sensitized to them when they reappear. That does not mean that Blacks should expect Whites to be aware of the hurt that these inferences cause. After all, the historical (and current) perspectives of both groups are quite different… And that is just the point. We all have different perspectives and different expectations of what the people we enter discussions with “should understand” about us. And when we make these assumptions, we are usually wrong.

If you pause her to reflect on the last paragraph you will notice that at no time in the above paragraph did I call you a "racist." I merely provided an explanation for why some Black persons may seem over-sensitive to some White persons. And why some White persons may seem under-sensitive to some Black persons” I offered this explanation dispassionately and without assigning blame or using a negative spin.

In many conversations on race you may hear Blacks speak in a manner that appears to be an overreaction or “over-sensitive”. Indeed this would be true if there were no underlying "charge" to the topic, but often there is one of which the confronted White person is not aware. Further, it is human nature (though not usually productive) to communicate frustration under such circumstances.
As long as the approach is respectful and non-judgmental such opportunities to discuss should be welcomed.

Some Blacks have unrealistic expectations of what Whites understand about Black perspectives. This is exaggerated by the lack of discussions about race in general. That is not to say that Whites can't be understanding about Black perspectives, but where there is lack of exposure to your perspectives, some Whites may make assertions that are misinformed. That is not an excuse for a Black person to simply “lash out” against a person who is attempting to engage in a meaningful conversation. The trick is to simply educate DISPASSIONATELY. Becoming angry (though a natural reaction) does not further the cause of promoting understanding. It is often the tendency to respond quickly to a "charged" question or comment with another (perhaps even more) "charged" comment that leads to loss of understanding and further resistance to the idea of engaging in discussion.

As I said, I agree with Holder that we often behave as a nation of cowards when it comes to race. However, I do not believe that Al Sharpton (or for that matter Don Imus) controls the ability of Mr. Buckley or me to break past those barriers and encourage discussion.

For example Perhaps Mr. Buckley was previously unaware of the significance of the aforementioned “monkey” references in Black culture and history. If I were to simply call him "racist" for not knowing this significance, it would be inappropriate and unproductive. On the other hand if I were to simply alert him to what meaning those inferences have for Black people in a dispassionate manner, it would give him an opportunity to reflect upon my perspective as I have reflected upon his.

Regarding your comments Mr. Buckley, I respect that you find it disrespectful for any president (Black or White) to be compared to a monkey. But I disagree that it is the same under this circumstance. I think that George Bush was compared to a monkey because of his perceived mannerisms, expressions and (according to some) sub-par intelligence. I am not saying that any of that would make it O.K. to be disrespectful but the situation with Obama is different. Obama has no similar attributes (to Bush or a monkey) and he was still apparently compared to a monkey. I think most would agree that Obama is very intelligent, articulate and stately much like Bill Clinton and George Bush Senior. But they were not (at least not widely) compared to monkey. Thus the use of the inference with Obama begs the questions “why a monkey?” and “why for him?.” Perhaps the cartoonist really was (as you suggested) just making fun of the leader, but for those who were subject to this type of denigration with similar comments through the course of their lives, the inference is all too similar and engenders frustration, anger, etc. not even just on behalf of Mr. Obama but for themselves as well because they see Obama as a positive reflection of the good side of Black culture and to have that denigrated in light of the current and historical context is extremely hurtful to many Blacks. I would assert that no one wants to put these inferences behind us more than Blacks. But when they reoccur, society is faced with the same tensions again because they do.

Now again, I hope that you will notice that although I disagreed with one or more of your assertions in the paragraph above I did not call you racist. In fact the above paragraph really is not a commentary on you personally at all, but on the situation you described. By the same token, I don't think Al Sharpton is racist when he simply points out inequities or concerns that plague Blacks.

I would not expect you to feel guilty after having heard my perspective (after all you didn't draw the cartoon). Likewise, if you read my comments and some how interpreted that I was calling you a racist simply because I expressed my opinion about a topic of race (an issue that you didn't even create), that would be unfortunate because it would present another barrier to communication.

Perhaps you can see why discussing things like this can be challenging in mixed race company.

But here's the rub. What is required to overcome the “cowardice” we all grapple with is to attempt communication from the perspective of being as open minded about your discussion partner as possible regardless of their race. Blacks must not assume that Whites who don't understand where you are coming from are necessarily making comments maliciously. Often there is significant misinformation about a topic. Don't pass up the opportunity to educate about your perspectives dispassionately. Whites must not assume that voicing your opinion is what makes Blacks perceive you to be racist. It is most often HOW you approach the subject not THAT you approach the subject. And yes SOME Blacks may overreact no matter what Whites say just as SOME Whites may under-react no matter what Blacks say. The operative word here is “SOME”. For everyone (Black or White or Both or neither) If you approach people respectfully and don't assume that they should feel a certain way about a subject and listen to their comments without judging them (regardless of whether or not you agree or ultimately agree) you will go a long way towards overcoming the “cowardice” of which Holder speaks.

O.K. last example to illustrate the last point.

Take the example of a White person walking into a room with one or more Blacks present and making a generalized statement like "Why are all black people on welfare?" (yes I know it's an obvious non-truth) or how about a Black person hearing a misinformed comment (like the one I just made) from White person and responding "Why are all white people racist?" (again, I know it's an obvious non-truth). Comments like this are NOT examples of constructive communication. Underneath both may be observations that are worth discussing, but how those observations are presented in these examples do not provide a welcome opening to discussion. Instead they make people less likely to want to engage in discussion with someone who appears to have already made up their mind. In other words when phrased like that such statements promote cowardice. And what would be the point if they had made up their mind and were not at least open to change?

It would be much better for either person to take the opportunity to ask "Would you be interested in grabbing a coffee or meeting for lunch this weekend and talking about race? I'm interested in expanding my perceptions, how about you?" Don't take it personal if the other person says "no thank you." But chances are if you ask it enough, you'll get some takers. Just remember that absolutes like "always", "never", "all" and, "none" have no place in discussions of race. If you approach a potential discussion on a subject related to race in the right way, you have a much better chance of having a productive an enlightening conversation. Don't expect to always agree, but it’s not the point to agree. The point is to learn about someone else perspective other than your own. One other pitfall to avoid… Be aware that everyone has different communication styles. Some people’s style is not necessarily conducive to discussion (e.g. A type A conversation dominator who doesn't stop to allow a more reserved person an opportunity to share their perspectives.) Some people (regardless of race) may need to modify their conversation style. If you converse for 15 minutes an you still haven't heard anything your discussion partner has to say, maybe its time to shut up and listen for a while. Just don't tell your partner to “shut up and listen” (that won't go over well).

So let's start talking. Although I know time and distance would probably not permit. I would love to have more discussion with Mr. Buckley. In spite of having some differences in opinion (our 100% agreement with Holder not withstanding) I enjoyed learning about his perspectives and I consider myself more informed as a result.

Anonymous said...

White History Month, White Music Awards, White Entreatment TV and the list goes on and on... oh sorry its Black History Month, Black Music Awards, Black Entertainment TV etc.

Strange hey when its the other way around...who is keeping the issue of racism alive.

Anonymous said...

OK, Holder, let's talk about race. Let's hear you justify having a "Black History" month but not a "Hispanic History" month. Let's hear you explain why a "Black" Congressional Caucus is OK but a "White" Congressional Caucus would be racist. Why is there a "Black" Miss America contest but no "White" Miss America contest? How can there be a "Black" Entertainment TV station but a "White" entertainment TV station would be racist? I think you're a phony.

Anonymous said...

With respect to the Post cartoon, CONGRESS writes bills (such as this this stimulus disaster), NOT the president. Imputing that the cartoon mocks Obama, and in a racially charged way, no less, makes absolutely ZERO sense.

The whole to-do over this is a farce. Anyone getting sanctimonious about it deserves to be severely mocked.

Gregg said...

I spend my Saturdays and Sundays with my family...and I am a coward because they happen to be the same color as me!?

We can NOT be a color blind nation. We should accept and embrace all races, but to be blind to color would ignore the history, culture, and diversity of each race (be it European, Asian, or African). And if we were a color blind nation, no one would notice that I spend my weekends with people of my own race.

Let me paraphrase Holder's statements: If you spend ANY time exclusively with your own race, (even if you spend extensive time during work, lunch, and after work activities with people outside your race) you are a coward. Wow.

Anonymous said...

What a surprise, a black person whining about racial issues. Black people make up 12% of the population, yet they do 90% of the complaining. Why do I have to be friends with someone just because they're black? My life isn't a politically correct commercial with the token black person in it (and of course no Hispanics or Asians). Could it possibly be that I don't hang out with black people because we don't have too much in common? What's wrong with hanging out with people in a similar demographic to my own? I'm sick and tired of being told how to live.

Anonymous said...

The comments on here sicken me. I suspect that all of you white people have never intervened on behalf of a black brother or sister who was being discriminated against. If you've lived through--and if you're white, you'll NEVER get it--then maybe you could find it in your hearts to empathize. Otherwise, please shut the f$%& up about it because you have no f'ing clue what you're talking about.

Shadysider said...

That cartoon was absolutely racist. What does the signing of the stimulus bill have to do with an escaped chimpanzee? You would have to be a racist to even come up with the idea to equate the two. The fact that Congress writes the bill is what makes the cartoon particulary racist. Also the fact that there was a picture of Obama signing a paper right next to this cartoon is evidence of this connection.
You can't move past racism if you are going to ignore it when it's right in front of your face.

Anonymous said...

The time will come very soon when anything about race will be irrelevant. Focus will be solely on survival. I am so tired of the race issue, specifically black history month, black entertainment awards, black this and black that. Its almost as if they are tryting their best to make racists out of everyone. I'm all "blacked out" at the moment.

The race issue is everywhere you look. Government, media, advertising - all depicting carefully selected races, sometimes even mixed as what seems to be the current trend.

I'm a realist. I cannot avoid seeing what the real situation is. Blacks do not seem to be at the same level of competence as whites. Every country in the world where blacks are the majority are in constant chaos. Why is this? They are undereducated, do not have a strong work ethic, prone to violence etc. Blacks coming into western countries have not done them any good.

200 years ago white Americans forced blacks from Africa to become slaves in America. Those are actions I absolutely despise. However the next mistake and most critical is when the slaves were freed they were not sent back to Africa where they came from. 150 years later America is stuck with millions of these decendents who are an enormous burden to the American populace. Yes, of course many whites are also a burden however if a per capita (by race) study was done on welfare recipients it would be very clear what race is the most dependent on public assistance.

Anonymous said...

In response to some of the post...The only reason why their is a Black history month, Black entertainment television, or Black music Award is simply because white people made them. When you did not include blacks in the history books...We said "Hey, were not represented or under-represented in the history books in can we remedy this...A good solution would have been to just include blacks in the history books, but since we didn't control the company that printed the books and it's contents...Well you have black history month.

Because blacks were not represented or under-represented on MTV...someone said...Hey, they are not playing black artist or very few black artist on MTV...The best thing to do would have been to include black artist with greater rotation on MTV, but since blacks were not represented in the corporate office, no black veejays on their shows, no black get the picture...MTV didn't think it was you have BET. It wasn't until the success of BET became apparent...MTV quickly changed it's ways.

The same story is true for the "Miss Black America" contest...for years blacks were not allowed to participate in the "Miss America" contest which by defacto made it the "Miss White America."

Black Colleges...Black Americans were not allowed entrance into many state and private schools until the 1950, which made it difficult for black to get an they started black schools..

This holds true for the "Black Congressional Caucus." Blacks were not allowed to hold political positions...Heck, they weren't even allowed to vote. In 1969 when blacks were being elected into congress the congressional caucus was formed to address issues concerning black...since these issues were not being addressed in society at large.

Point would know these things if they were included in our history books...but you don't. I would suggest that before you start making statements about "Why there is a "black this and a black that" you research the information.

You will probably find an answer to your question and be the more enlightened.

BTW, there is an Hispanic Heritage Month and there are several Hispanic Television stations, two major ones are Telemundo and Univision.

I think some of these comments prove Holders statements to be true...It is 2009 and people just don't know or care to know the "COMPLETE" history of this country. They would rather "be cowards" than to educate themselves about another culture.

kateb said...

I don't agree with this. I think when you start to make sweeping assumptions based on the color of someone's skin (white people absolutely can't talk about race), that person has just made a bigoted statement. Racism knows no color.

After electing Barak Obama as President and having a very healthy mix in his cabinet - we are having a national dialogue about race.

And after having elected Obama it makes Holder's comments look ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

When I became a father 26 years ago next week I resolved that I would raise children that were free from racism, that saw all people as equals. I went out of my way to make sure that I moved into a racially mixed area. I did everything I could to raise my children color blind. I was actually shocked to find out that racism was alive and well in Rev. Wright's church and apparently that wasn't an issue for the then candidate for President. I voted for Obama, I am color blind. Who are the cowards?

Anonymous said...

Hey Shadysider, stop embarrassing yourself. My God what stupidity. Your quotes, followed by a few comments:

"What does the signing of the stimulus bill have to do with an escaped chimpanzee?"

Hey dummy, here's the exact text from the cartoon - "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill". Do you understand the difference between "writing" and "signing" a bill, and who does what?

"You would have to be a racist to even come up with the idea to equate the two."

Uh, no. Sorry moron. Apparently you're unaware that a chimp went berserk in a NYC suburb and had to be shot down by the cops. It's been all over the news for days. What the cartoonist did, however clumsily, was use this current event to mock congress for their chimp-like behavior with respect to this whole stimulus fiasco. It's all very straightforward.

"The fact that Congress writes the bill is what makes the cartoon particulary racist."

Uh, you lost me there, Einstein...

"Also the fact that there was a picture of Obama signing a paper right next to this cartoon is evidence of this connection."

What in God's name are you talking about, you incompetent, lying moron. The picture of Obama was not "right next to it", you needed to turn the page to see it.

What motivates someone to tell such obvious lies, all in the name of falsely accusing others of racism? What kind of despicable cretin are you? Geesh.

Julio said...

I don't care about black history. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

If only the founding fathers could have used robots to do all their labor for them. That way black people could still be in Africa doing whatever they'd be doing over there instead of complaining all he freaking time.

Anonymous said...

I don't care about white history and I too wish "YOUR" founding fathers had used robots.

Flashlight Girl said...

MJ, who knew you had so many anonymous blog stalkers? Just goes to show what a charged issue this is. . . And, it's very safe to comment vehemently while being anonymous. Myself, I guess I'm just one of those cowards who will do her best to be kind to everyone, not just those whose skin color is the same as mine.

Carole Thayne Warburton said...

Well Matthew, I started reading the comments, but you sure have some long-winded anonymous friends.

hasnain raza said...

Play Games and Earn Money online from home, best add clicking website in the world

Rehan Ahmed said...

Viewing the ads, playing games, upgrade plans, more earnings, referral earnings, bonus points and more, join now