Sunday, September 20, 2009

Exploding the Dream Deferred

I have a bone deep weariness that I can't quite shake. No doubt some of my mood arises from commemorating the one-year anniversary of my mother's death this past Tuesday. My father came up for a visit. We spent Tuesday at my sister's home with her husband Bob and their grandson, Donovan. He's not quite nine months old and a total delight. We spoke with my brother and his family via telephone. They live in Charlotte.

However, I am also weary of the unrelenting attacks on President Obama. The attacks go beyond disagreement with his policies; they are personal and vicious. The comments on a variety of Internet news stories are getting worse. The racism isn't at all subtle. The comment inspiring story doesn't even have to be about race or Obama for some commenter to start a thread about how shiftless, no good, etc. black people are and how we should all leave the country. The dittohead chorus immediately begins to add three part harmony. I don't want to read the hateful words, but I know that they are there whether I read them or not. Besides, ignorance isn't bliss; it's dangerous. It's the unknown threat that I fear the most.

Former President Jimmy Carter's assessment that racism fuels the anti-Obama fervor was a bold and honest statement. I've read Carter's books about his life growing up in Georgia; he truly understands racism. He knows of what he speaks.

I'm glad that Carter spoke out and I fully appreciate his doing so, but I'm dismayed that it took Carter stating the obvious for the major media to pick up the story that has been playing out in black media for months--racism in America is not dead. We have had some pretty sorry presidents during my life time but I have never seen such unrelenting hatred directed at any of them; attacks on their policies, yes, but not assertions that they should be killed offered up by a minister!

Years ago, when I was a teenager, someone in the civil rights movement leadership (can't remember his name) made a speech at a rally that I attended in which he directly addressed "our white brothers and sisters" who were a part of the movement, and charged them with the task of calling other white people out on their racists beliefs. He said only when whites challenge the racism of other whites is the challenge heard, because when black people use the term racism, the immediate reaction is to dismiss the charge as being imagined abuse because of black people's hypersensitivity about race. Nowadays, we are accused of playing the race card, but that term wasn't in use forty years ago.That's why I'm glad that Jimmy Carter has spoken up. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, radio personalities like Tom Joyner and Michael Baisden, and pretty much any and all public voices in the black community have been calling the attacks on Obama what they are--overt racism. Carter's speaking out certainly gladdens me because it adds legitimacy to the claims of racism.

However, it still insults and pisses me off that it takes a white man to make people sit up and take notice of the racism that is as obvious as the nose on my face. It also saddens and disgusts me that far too many people don't recognize that the need for white confirmation of what black people have been telling white people for generations is in and of itself a manifestation of racism.

It's not just good ole boys wearing sheets that propagate racism; it's just as likely to be elected officials, soccer moms, or the sales clerk at the convenience mart. I'm not feeling very nice or forgiving any more when it comes to racism. I want neighbors, and co-workers, and family members to start calling each other out on their racist beliefs. I'm tired of a lifetime of not only being the object of racism but also being expected to explain to white people what the problem is over and over again, and possibly help them see the error of their racist ways.

I never tolerate anyone expressing bigotry in my presence. If a black friend characterizes all Hispanics as dirty or all whites as evil, I don't just look away in embarrassment. When I hear homophobic talk in any group which I'm a part of, I speak out, even if it means that I'm not going to be popular with that crowd any more.

Carter did the right thing but in my mind its a great social tragedy that he gets so much praise for doing what should be done. What it says about the rest of this country leaves a really foul taste in my mouth. Does anyone have to tell us that it's child abuse if you throw a baby against a wall? It's a shame that Carter had to state the obvious and that the general public sees it as an astounding observation and if they then believe what Carter says, as a revelation.

In the 1960s, I watched southern law enforcement turn loose the dogs against civil rights protesters on the evening news, and I wondered why they hated us so much. I feel that black folks have been fighting the same battles against racism over and over again from generation to generation, and I, for one, am tired.

I'd like to have the luxury of not thinking about race. When my BFF Sarah and I were in Mexico four years ago, for the first time in my entire life, nothing happened to make me aware that my skin color was anything more than a color. At first I couldn't even define what was different, but after a few days I realized that when I went shopping, no one followed me to see if I was going to steal anything; sales people were actually anxious to wait on me instead of ignoring me in favor of a white customer, at the restaurants, service was always gracious. People assumed that I had a brain and no one asked me to serve them a drink, where the clean towels were, or marveled over how articulate I was. There was no place that we went that I had to wonder if my race had anything to do with how I was treated. It was an amazing experience and I resent that I had to leave my country to find it.

When I was 14, I learned to play the guitar. I cut peace signs out of contact paper and pasted them all over my guitar case. I believed that the world was changing and I really believed that one day we would all join hands and sing about peace, love, and unity. I admit that I've become cynical. I don't believe that I will ever know such a world in my life time. I don't think that Donovan, who is all of 8 1/2 months old will know it in his either. What's really sad is that I don't think that he will even have the luxury of dreaming of such a world.

I've buried the innocence of my youth and I can't resurrect it. All I feel is tired, continually disgusted, and sad because my rose colored glasses have been shattered beyond repair. Obama was my last hope, but this country isn't worthy of him and I truly fear that some hate filled ass is going to make an attempt on his life before his term ends. The yahoos may be just a loud minority, but where are the equally loud and very public countering voices?


Beth said...

Take heart, my friend. You know that I'm all over this, don't you? This gal won't be hushin' up and mindin' her place anytime soon, and you can take that to the bank! The hatred and nastiness I've been seeing lately has only served to make me more fired up and more willing to speak up and call people out on it. I'm guessing that these yahoos weren't counting on that sort of reaction from people. Surprise!

It's hard to believe it's been a year. Sending you warm thoughts and big hugs, my friend. Love, Beth

Mark said...

In a country of 300 million, if you've got 10% racists, that's still 30 million, and it only takes 100,000 of them to be so ugly it feels like the country's gone crazy with hatred. Obama still got 54% of the vote, those people have not turned against him.
But prominent whites have got to stop giving a shit what Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck says about them, being attacked by them should be considered the greatest honor and validation. And racism in general needs to be redefined from overt hatred based on skin color (Clarence Thomas and Michael Steele provide just enough deniability) to resentment and fear based on perception. These people perceive black people,as a whole and Obama in particular, as a threat, and react according to their perception. They would be pathetic if they weren't being taken so seriously by the press and politicians. The same press has ignored the leftwing fringe for years--why aren't they doing the same to the right wing wackos? Liberal media, my ass. They didn't investigate claims that got us into Iraq, and they're still pussyfooting about calling overt racism racism.
I'm actually wondering if we don't need to start forming armed militias of our own. I'm very pro-non-violence, but damned if I'll go into the cattle car without a fight.

Sybil said...

Oh sheara How I feel for you and all you friends. I to have a heavy heart when I think of tghe treatment that is being dished out to you President as like you I had high hopes that at last he might be able to bring more unity to the about rise tinted specs !!
Love Always Sybil xx

Sybil said...

Sheria, I thought I had you e.address but can't find it so will have to say here what I was going to say !!
My sister Sarah and I were talking about you just yesterday and she was asking if I had written to you this week as we reckoned that you might be having an extra heavy heart week it being a year since your Mum died...I have just come back from Canada after a 10 day holiday with Mary so please forgive me this late note but be sure that you have been in our thoughts and prayers.
love Sybil xx

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Dear Sheria,
The bad behaviour of late is clearly motivated by racism, and you are right, Obama is too good for this country.

I'm disgusted that there was no similar uproar when Bush drug us into Iraq and did his many foul deeds.

I don't think it's going to change in this lifetime either. We elected a good, capable, smart man to lead this country, but clearly, a good segment of the populace is prepared to thwart him at every turn. We may have elected a black President, but we certainly have not overcome racism. Not even close.

I am disgusted along with you. I don't watch the news much anymore. It makes me too damn angry.

I hope it's okay, but I'm linking to your post.

I love you.


Ms. Moon said...

Hello Sheria- Several of the people I read and who read me linked me to this post today.
I wrote something similar back on Sept. 6. Check it out if you feel like it.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Hugs to you on this say anniverary :o)

I hope that those of us that share your dispair at the treatment of our president can start to be heard.

Anonymous said...

I'm here through Sarcastic Bastard's blog post. Just wanted to say I get what you are saying and it is shameful the way so many people act these days. I'm normally one of those types who avoids touchy subjects, but even I have gotten into arguments lately over political issues, simply because I can't ignore some of the ignorant comments I see lately. Even my friends on Facebook and blogger friends I thought had more sense than they do, have shown me that they really don't understand anything! It's frustrating, to say the least.

jack-of-all-thumbs said...

You know me.

You know that I can't truly share your weariness.

But I can share a small part of your pain.

Take heart. We ARE winning. Slowly.

Yasmin said...

Hi sheria, you have echoed quie a few of my thoughts here President Obama took over the leadership of the country with all current issues tht plague it now, he has only been here for nine months, and what ever he does it's not going to happen over night "Chnage" was abig part of his campaigne and if people are not willing to change then nothing significant will ever really happen and what pisses me off the most if he wasn't a black President most of the crap that's being spouted would ever be said, it makes me mad that there are those attempting to make his time in office about his skin colour seriously it's 2009 shouldn't people have really got past this kind of asinine thinking by now.

On a gentelr note glad your father came to stay last week that first year is the toughest and it's good to be together to remember.

Take care