While this is not about "all things strings", both the comments posted in response to Laurie's recent post (about being seen in and praised for wearing an Obama t-shirt) and a recent event involving someone that I consider to be a dear friend have compelled me to write this one. Hold on, enjoy, and please share your thoughts.
Understanding that what follows may seem incendiary, I feel that I must ask your forgiveness as well as add the disclaimer that the thoughts written here are solely shared to address a human problem from an intellectual perspective.
In the essay “The Education of a Storyteller” (which can be found in Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions, a posthumously published collection of short stories and essays by Ms. Bambara that was edited by Toni Morrison), the late Toni Cade Bambara chronicled her growth as a writer and, yes, a storyteller, beginning with lessons from school and including the responsibilities necessary for one to take on the role of speaker that were instilled by her ancestors and her community. There are two things that stand out in this essay, the first being a quote from philosopher Frantz Fanon: “To speak is to assume a culture and bear responsibility for a civilization.” The second quote – perhaps not as eloquently articulated to some – comes from one of her relatives: “Yeah, speak yo’ speak, child. For every silence you maintain will first become a lump in your throat and later become a lump in your lymphatic system.”
I mention this because I have, like many in recent weeks, been watching the details of this year’s presidential election and found myself surprised, humbled, grateful, and indeed outraged at what I have read. Of course, I have been incredibly pleased to read much of the commentary, including that by both Representative John Lewis and New York Times commentator Frank Rich (note: there is a second and equally insightful yet somewhat incendiary column by Mr. Rich in a recent issue of the New York Times), as well as both Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama and his reasons for doing so. Nevertheless, I have also been deeply disturbed by much of be unchallenged behavior going on across the land and was quite frightened – to say the least – upon hearing about the two young men who had hatched what can only be called the Election Day Massacre.
However, a recent conversation that I had with a friend – a friend and colleague whom I have known since we both commenced undergraduate studies at the University of South Carolina in 1987 - has compelled me to organize my thoughts as well as possible and share them. I can only hope that both the situation and my thoughts surrounding said situation have been presented in a manner that all can understand.
During said conversation, my friend mentioned that he had a conversation with a coworker who, upon speaking about the upcoming election, said “I’m still grappling with the idea of voting for a Black man.” My friend’s response to his colleague: “I disagree with you.” Their conversation of course continued, and during the course of the conversation my friend’s coworker made the point that many were still processing this “idea” by taking a random "street poll" - asking those passing by if they indeed shared his feelings.
As I write this, I think of Mr. Fanon’s words and realize that I as a human being must do what I ask of others, that being that I must fully understand – something that can only happen through asking questions – before making a pronouncement or an argument. Nevertheless, being an “African-American” (with my family having been in the United States for longer than a generation, I take some pause with using this category to describe my people) I immediately bristled – and found myself even more incensed when my friend added “I so wish that you could have been there so that you could have taken him to task.”
My response: “Did YOU take him to task?”
“No – I wouldn’t want him to speak ill of me to my coworkers.”
Before I go on, I must say that my friend – a dear friend – has no discriminatory bone in his body. However, as OUR conversation continued I found myself becoming increasingly angered, and after a solid hour of back and forth - during which I hammered the question "Why did you not take the opportunity to speak to this man about his views, which were obviously NOT political, but based in the ignorance of prejudice?" my friend answered: “I wouldn’t want to open the can of worms and have that kind of hatred floating around.”
When pressed, my friend also asserted that “Laying into this man at that particular time would be inappropriate” and asked why I felt that it was necessary for him to do so. Mind you, this friend and colleague shared that his reasons for not confronting his coworker were simply because he (my friend and colleague) did not want to feel the backlash (and that is more than telling).
It is both daring and safe to say that we in the United States have, in regards to both human rights and the eradication of prejudice, come quite far. Nevertheless, it was incredibly disheartening to see this double standard still in existence, that being the maintenance of a personal status quo while feeling somewhat hopeless about both the issues of true racial equality and the challenge of eradicating the ignorant notions of superiority and inferiority that still plague our nation surrounding the topic of ethnic relations.
I did of course press my friend about his level of commitment and accountability and of course, upon hearing the “usual arguments” (“This man has the right to think and believe what he wants”, etc. ad nauseum) my stance changed from “explain yourself” to “fire-and-be-damned-to-you.” Not only is it inappropriate to say that someone has the right to think of any group of people with disdain, as doing so shows not only a great deal of ignorance and spiritual bankruptcy – it is safe to say that the word “inappropriate” is not strong enough to describe such dark thoughts.
By now you may all be asking the question “And your point, Sam?”
During the early 1960s James Baldwin organized a meeting with then Attorney General Robert Kennedy and a group of national and international figures including Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte, Lorraine Hansberry, and Jerome Smith – the latter who had been injured in the Freedom Rides. This meeting, held to discuss how the issues of race should be handled during that time, was not an initial success, as it “crystallized a problem that was basic to the civil rights movement of the sixties,” that problem being that “the white liberals were…pledged to reform the existing system” while “the black at the meeting saw the race problem as having moral dimensions that transcended the particular concerns of the day and went to the heart of what it was to be American.”
Those who met with Attorney General Kennedy wanted to see a great moral commitment from those who supported the cause of civil rights, as opposed to talk alone.
Almost fifty years later, as we stand on the precipice of what could indeed be a great moment in our nation’s history, that being the election of our nation’s first black president, it may be safe to say that what we – “we” referring to the entire population of this country – ask for is a great moral commitment from our leaders and our peers as opposed to the status quo talk, judgmental disdain and political posturing that plagues and frustrates us on all levels, from employment problems to issues as still divisive as race relations and gay marriage.
THIS is the type of commitment that I was seeking from my friend – and I shared that with him. To take a stand, not share with me his feelings of hopelessness, and not to expect me (as "the black man") to take up the conversation with “the other”.
After having visited Africa, during which his views on the teachings of Islam changed, Malcolm X came back to the United States applauding the sincerity of all people in their quest to understand and perhaps solve the racial problems that were destroying the United States during the very turbulent 1960s: “I said that on the American racial level, we had to approach the black man’s struggle against the white man’s racism as a human problem, that we had to forget hypocritical politics and propaganda…both races, as human beings, had the obligation, the responsibility, of helping to correct America’s human problem. The well-meaning white people…had to combat, actively and directly, the racism in other white people. And the black people had to build within themselves much greater awareness that along with equal rights there had to be the bearing of equal responsibilities.”
Understanding that we as a society have indeed progressed quite far in healing the wounds of the greater part of the twentieth century, I also understand that there are still personal wounds and memories that must be excavated and healed. Having watched and listened to men like Colin Powell and Barack Obama, I do also understand that we as a people must be incredibly careful when speaking about anything – as well as the importance of bringing these issues to a human level, as it is only through that kind of understanding that dialogue and both inner and outer change can take place.
Nevertheless, in whatever direction this election goes, we will still have the day after…and I can only hope that we as a people can continue to look inside of ourselves and summon the courage to truly take the stands of which both James Baldwin and Malcolm X spoke. The responsibility to change all notions and prejudices belongs to all of us – and neither maintaining the status quo nor shrugging one’s shoulders and saying “That’s horrible” are acceptable. If this campaign has shown us anything, it has most definitely shown us that there’s no “going back to normal” if normal means being silent in the midst of divisive and hate-loaded action.
...and if I may honor the ancestors of Ms. Bambara, the lump in my throat seems to have disappeared...
Notes are taken from David Leeming's James Baldwin and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
thoughtful post sam.
not being insensitive, i believe that since your complexion is darker than mine, on that alone you have probably encountered more incidents of racism, blatant or hidden. as a fellow asian, i have seen my share but for the most part, i admit that may be because of my position, racism has not played much of a role in my life. if anything it may have worked to my favor. my point? i probably do not know you, or, on the topic of your interest, i probably do not know what i am talking about. karin lin, in the other blog responding to your post, said: I hear you. not sure if i can claim that.
for instance, in laurie's blog, i misunderstood your use of "bailout" and "folks". as we clarified later in email, i thought you were referring to people caught in the current financial crisis, ie, wall streeters, home owners, simply regular folks. turns out you were referring to govt assistance programs and "folks" meant black people.
i usually have no problem following trains of thoughts or reading between the lines, but it seems to me that with you and your background, i have to ask myself, what is sam really saying? conversely, if i use a word and he puts it into a different context, will he be misled? your recent use of "our people" referring to black people is more deducible which leads to my question.
knowing that you pride yourself as a writer, musician, historian, violinist, etc, do you carry yourself in everyday life with a prefix, as a black writer, a black musician, a black historian and a black violinist? are you a black man first and foremost or a man who happens to be black? how about a human being?
the people i associate with in my daily life will probably say they are simply human beings, those with conscience, integrity and common sense. if they behave otherwise i would probably have let them go, to places with more appropriate forums. yet, despite the obvious differences in color, greed, cultural background or aspiration, or what have you, we live in peace in our little circles. the model seems to work quite well because i respect them (meaning black people that i hang with) for their professionalism and professionalism alone.
Great article and insight! I believe, by all logical deductions and knowledge of past historical events that a great moment in history will have occurred on Election Day. The events that have occurred previously to the final election have retained a mild air of a grand circus, but this seems to be the some individuals think today, and are so media confused, that they do not know differently. I happily am not one of them. I believe that qualification is the key and I would elect Mickey Mouse himself, if he were properly qualified. It is only a job, and the Congress regulates that job. It would seem that people worry too much about what they are capable of changing, which is illogical. The events that unfold afterwards will undoubtedly show how far we have progressed as not only a great nation, but as Americans. There will be some cry-babies on both sides of the issue, but it will be a good learning experience in historical progress. Those who would cry too much need to dry their eyes and review the Constitution of the United States, or just move to another country. Heaven forbid that anyone would do something foolish just because they are upset with the situation, as they would be no better than any enemy of the United States, and will be duly punished and made an example of. The whole situation has not so much been something a long time coming, but simply due now.
Jerald Franklin Archer
I long for the day when we as a nation and people are truly colorblind.
Thanks for the blog. I think it will be a great day when there is a black American as President or a Hispanic American as President or a Chinese American as president. You can go down the list. I just don't think it should be Mr. Obama. I disagree with his politics, not the color of his skin. I have a seventh grader at my school whose mother and father both come from Nairobi. He is a strong supporter of Obama and very outspoken. I overheard him talking to one of his friends about how "most Republicans were racist". I then asked him why he wanted Mr. Obama to be president and he said because he wanted "a black man in office." I pointed out the obvious racial irony of his two comments and he couldn't see it. As I said earlier, I think it would be great for America to have a black president...but not simply because he or she is black. I am afraid that many people will vote for Obama for that reason alone. Dr. Martin Luther King said it best in his famous "I Have a Dream" speach when he said that he hoped his children would live in a nation one day where they wouldn't be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have judged Mr. Obama's character and found it lacking. It has nothing to do with his skin color.
Samuel, though I did not say it in the other thread, I agree that your writing is beautiful and compelling.
I firmly believe that we all must be willing to call each other out on incidents of racism. We are all responsible for holding ourselves and each other accountable for our role in perpetuating an insidious system that we are not individually responsible for but nevertheless all have a duty to help dismantle. Racism hurts everyone, not just people of color, and it cannot solely be the job of people of color to solve it.
I have a different goal than colorblindness. To not see color is to not see me. We should recognize the impact of race and culture on our history and our society, seek to right the wrongs, and celebrate rather that deny our differences. I don't think anyone can truly be colorblind, but what we can do is learn to challenge our automatic assumptions that a person's color implies certain things about them---be they positive or negative.
So, once again, I hear you, Samuel. And if I do not, I hope that we can trust in each other and in our shared commitment to our world to speak gently and compassionately instead of falling into patterns of anger, defensiveness, and blame.
Just... move to another country?
That's an interesting turn of phrase, Jerald. I've heard it before actually. It was frequently spoken to African Americans during the height of their struggles for equal rights. I find it ironic to see it used now in this context.
Let's dry our eyes and look at that Constitution. America has been made great by the freedoms we are granted under it. One of the most important ones being the rights of free speech and the ability to have a dissenting opinion from the majority.
I'm not an Obama supporter, not because of the color of his skin, but rather as you say, Jerald, qualification is the key. I don't believe he has them. I personally feel that a great many people are so caught up in the spectacle of "making history", that I wonder how many are voting based on the actual issues. I consider McCain to be the lesser of two evils, but if we're speaking franky (a habit I endorse) I haven't been impressed with either candidate.
And that's perfectly alright.
I certainly won't cry when Obama wins, but I will consider it to be the wrong choice. Which is my perogative under the Constitution. And that's really what makes this nation great.
Which... brings me to Mr. Thompson. Your article is elegant and well put, yet I feel at it's heart somewhat heavy handed. One should not attempt to regulate ethics and morality.
Mark me as "spiritually bankrupt", but the gentleman in question does have every right to hold his racist opinions and even voice them. And no matter how repulsive the bigotry may be, I personally would not have it any other way. I certainly am not making the claim that prejudice is in any way laudable, but understand...
This thought exists within the man.
It's as worrying a lump in his throat as yours is. You make the distinction that "Yes, but he's wrong." and I agree. He is wrong to judge a man by his race above his merits. But stifling him from speaking his mind does NOT serve any of us well.
It is the right of the people to hold any belief they so choose and speak at length upon it. It's a slippery slope when you begin to tell someone what they can and can not say. What they can and can not believe.
I look forward to the day when we as a nation retain the right to shout bigtory and hatred from the rooftops and yet choose not to. I believe that day is remarkably close as we, the people, become by slow degrees ever more enlightened about the things that bond us all.
Despite my misgivings about Obama the politician, I will admit there's a part of me that's tremendously excited to know that our nation will be "making history" soon.
And even the dissenters like me and the bigots like your friends coworker are still part of this nation. It's our HONOR to be part of this occasion in our nation's history... Whether we know it or not.
James, after reading your well-written post I went back to Samuel's blog, and I cannot see anywhere where he advocates "legislating morality" or removing any person's right to say what he or she thinks. His point was that we all have a responsibility to speak up against injustice, that we must not be deterred by fear of disapproval or loss of a friendship. As Pauline said, silence implies consent, and that silence will have its consequences to you and your world.
It is absolutely your right to say what you think. It is also my responsibility to speak out if I believe that what you say is wrong. And that responsibility is what I believe Sam is talking about.
So you respect bigotry, James?
Mr. James Green,
"Just... move to another country?
That's an interesting turn of phrase, Jerald. I've heard it before actually. It was frequently spoken to African Americans during the height of their struggles for equal rights. I find it ironic to see it used now in this context."
Actually, Mr. Green, I did not intend it to be ironic at all. I meant it as fact and solution to those who are in dissent of the way things are in the United States. This solution could well apply to anyone who may have a problem with social progression, and (frankly speaking) it most certainly includes bigots. I would personaly buy them a ticket myself, without reservation, on my part or the airlines destination schedule. Anywhere will suffice.
As a nation, we have much work to consider and perpetrators of hate do nothing to aid in the endevour. They are no more than proponents of hate and ignorance in this or any other country. I do not hate them, as that would make me no better than them. I simply pity them for their lack of education, which should never be a problem to attain today. The resources are available, but some individuals are obstinate through ignorant for their own individual reasons which I cannot begin to fathom. I would imagine, by all logical reason, they would have a difficult time starting, or even maintaining, there own country. I believe that free speech is a right well used in conjunction with proper manners. It is intended to be utilized with respect to all cultures, races, religious beliefs, etc. and not abused by fanatical individuals.Opinion is the only part we encounter before Election Day, whereas fact is what follows after Election Day. Certainly opinion and fact can co-exist, but it is not a mix that produces solidity in compound. It produces an "oil and water" mixture that is contained in one vessel, but cannot, or will not, ever mix as one. Sometimes one must persuade by fact and not opinion. When the person who preaches hate believes it is right, and attempts to turn others their way, I find it not only illogical and immoral in practice, but dangerous to the progress any civilized society, as well. Bigotry is ignorance, and ignorance is detremental to progress, would you not agree?
Jerald Franklin Archer
"Not only is it inappropriate to say that someone has the right to think of any group of people with disdain, as doing so shows not only a great deal of ignorance and spiritual bankruptcy – it is safe to say that the word “inappropriate” is not strong enough to describe such dark thoughts."
Sam, you have put some elegant thoughts together here. I tend to agree with you, however I think you are confused on the above point. To say someone has or hasn't a right to their thoughts, what ever they may be, is a moot arguement as you have no control over them; influence maybe, but no control. A thought can hurt no one but the thinker. It is actions that truly matter.
As far as legislating ethics and morality, that's exactly what laws are about!
sam is not here to remind us that racism is wrong, on all levels, from all angles, whether it is white on black, black on white,,,
before we jump to the right side of the fence, THINK about his challenge one more time: HOW FAR WILL YOU GO TO DEFEND AGAINST RACISM?
sam's friend felt that there is peer pressure at work to go further on the issue after he indicated that voting based on color is wrong. i believe that sam will put his life on the line to defend his belief, to sacrifice all he has because he lives for certain ideal. until and unless we can share that level of conviction on the issue of racism, i think it is perhpas too convenient to just pay lip service, an insult to others with true conviction.
for starters, will you give up your violin or your job to defend against racism not in your own way but to sam's content?
i certainly will not.
Are the following racist thoughts? Should they be eradicated?
I worked with a woman of Asian ancestry once who told me that her parents had one main criteria for her marriage -- that she marry another Asian.
Caucasian families adopt children of other races at a much higher frequency than any other race. This fact has been decried by many non-Caucasians. There have been active efforts made to prevent such adoptions. Black, White or Mixed Race Adoptions
I don't see anything wrong with mixed race marriages or adoptions. But are people who are opposed to such racists? Should we work to control such thoughts? Or am I a racist for believing that there is nothing wrong with interracial marriage or adoption?
Sam, you have opened an important issue. Let me throw a few more thoughts into the ring.
Are you willing to give up your friendship because of your friend's apparently amoral, selfish attitude? Or perhaps you are selfish for wanting him to have your level of dedication and viewpoints? Now, I don't necessarily believe this or mean to belittle your beliefs. You seem to be a caring, intelligent, and thoughtful kind of guy. I say it only to make a point. Your friend has a valid point: he has an obligation to foster harmony in the work place. The question is: was that indeed his true or even primary reason for his response? That said, the world is naturally filled with inequities of all sorts. Some are man-made and others are natural. Social scientists tell us we tend to favor the tall, good-looking, and wealthy, among other things. Those with these attributes get better jobs with more money, get out of more traffic tickets, and are more readily believed. Is this fair or right? Of course not, but it does seem to be the case. The point is we all have native and aquired biases that we need to examine carefully to see how they affect us. Everyone should have opinions and biases. I tend to distrust those without an opinion as it shows a lack of thought. The question is, were those biases and opinions arrived at through careful reasoning, or were they aquired through peer pressure and social conditioning. The only way to find out is to have true communication. I believe we need to foster analytical thought much more than "right" thinking.
Al also asks an important question: how far are we willing to go to defend our beliefs? What are we willing to give up to achieve our goal? Are we willing to alienate those we wish to change? Too, we must always be aware that we want their minds to open, not close.
"There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends."
I believe that idea is at the heart of what Sam is saying.
People may hold racist views and may express them, but we don't have to let those views stand uncontested. If you aren't racist and you have personal integrity, you WON'T just stand and nod in agreement when someone expresses destructive, hateful, racist views.
Disagreement is likely, when people hold opposing views. But that's what this idea of "freedom expression" is for: Not just validating and giving voice to everyone's random (and sometimes ill-bred) thoughts, but exploring them, "vetting" them, debating them, keeping the conversation going.
I've never heard of a "good" argument for racism, or a good outcome from its practice.
I have a question that amplifies my earlier response (first one in this blog). I believe that silence gives consent. How do I express myself coolly when my fervor is hot? I want people to judge my statements rationally. I don't want to lose friends.
This is an interesting can of worms. I feel unqualified on many levels to even say anything about this matter - mostly due to my youth and inexperience - but I will do so anyways.
One of the main things I would like to point out is that, in many ways, judging people for what they believe or even for their actions is as silly as judging people based on the color of their skin. In that sense, attempting to dictate which thoughts are correct or incorrect - or even how others approach the world and its constituents - is just terribly a black and white way to go about things. Determining that "bigotry is wrong" is such a blatant logical fallacy and irony that I take people who implicate it just that much less seriously. Mr. James Green raises the very interesting point that we really do live in a country which celebrates freedom of speech to such an extent that "the right to shout bigotry and hatred from the rooftops" is a right accorded to every single citizen in the nation - like it or not. And, I would strongly suggest to anybody who would like to attribute qualities to people who exercise that right to think twice about what it means to be a member of this flawed but wonderful democracy.
Another question is whether presidential candidates should be elected based on purely professional merits. The answer is obviously no (just look at past successful presidents), but what is a good qualification for president? IMHO the primary consideration should be charisma, but there can be a lot of qualities related to character and how the candidate relates/communicates with the people. This may sound contradictory to my previous statements, but in this regard the fact that Obama is black is a huge advantage for him, as it increases his charm and appeal immensely. Karin is right about colorblindness being the wrong goal - the fact that Obama is black is as moot of a point as the fact that MLK was black.
You do misunderstand freedom of speech, there are limitations to freedom of speech in the United States, and particularly to hate speech.
There is good reason for this, as speech can endanger people and incite people to panic and violence. For example, no one has the right shout "Fire!" in a crowded building when there's no fire. In this case, the public good outweighs a person's free speech rights. That also includes "hate speech."
As for the best qualification for a president being "charisma," well, Hitler was charismatic. I don't agree. I think professional qualifications are extremely important. If you were having surgery, would you pick your doctor based on his medical knowledge, or on his nice personality or religion? I'd pick the doctor with medical knowledge about my condition. There actually are a set of skills required for being president, among them diplomacy, ability to communicate with the public, knowledge of the law, knowledge of history, and much more.
Laurie, it's possible to be bigoted against old white guys too. Did you ponder what's in the link below before you adopted a t-shirt?
Samuel, you want us to believe you condemn racism, but you're holding up as an ideal here someone who called a race of people devils.
Color, race or ethnicity should not be an issue in America. But individuals in my view continue to make it a reoccurring issue simply by emphasizing that it must persist. For example my mother’s parents were born in Denmark and my father’s parents in Italy and Sicily. They all immigrated to America after WWI. Both my parents were born in America and so was I. I am an American, I do not pronounce myself when I meet someone to be an Italian-American or a Danish-American I am and very proud to simply be an American. It appears to me that many who want to hyphenate their American Ancestry are fooling themselves because, white, black, yellow etc… if you are an American you are an American nothing more or less and that should be enough.
As far as the candidates are concerned in my view neither are acceptable, we need a real leader. Obama, he needs more experience to season him it not that he is black he just doesn’t have the experience at this time.
WOW - once again....while it's taking a LONG time for me to respond to everything posted here, I have to start with that from Jim Miller:
Yes, Malcolm X DID at one time in his life refer to "white devils". However, one finds through reading his biography that he seriously and thoroughly rethought those beliefs after traveling to Mecca and worshipping Allah with people of all hues. Should it be necessary, I would be more than happy to find said pages from his autobiography and either post them here or send them to you via US Mail...To Richard: "It appears to me that many who want to hyphenate their American Ancestry are fooling themselves because, white, black, yellow etc… if you are an American you are an American nothing more or less and that should be enough."
Samuel, we can't really know what he thought when. That's why some statements can't be retracted.
Jim - Read the book...
Then perhaps we should not argue this point as we have both read the same text - hopefully thoroughly....and perhaps we should not continue THIS part of said discussion as this can very easily morph into personal attack (which it sadly already has).
The term “hyphenated American” was in slang use by the late nineteenth century and assertion of such identity came to be looked upon with suspicion especially during the two world wars because it allegedly called into question the primary political loyalty of certain immigrant groups in the United States. Addressing the Knights of Columbus in New York City on 12 October 1915, Former President Theodore Roosevelt said:
"There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all... The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic... There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else."
I agree with Roosevelt, we must all be Americans and nothing more or less. If an individual or a group chooses to be something else then it will most like be something else. I am not saying that any American should not understand and be proud of their lineage. But we must be American nothing more or less.
Laurie, You say there are limitations on hate speech. What are they? I don't believe there are any legal limitations on what people can say to other people including racist, derogatory, and demeaning statements. But I could be wrong. Nothing jumped out at me in your link as establishing the illegality of hate speech.
I certainly believe that there are moral and ethical limitations on what we should say but those are all self or socially imposed limitations not enforced by a government nor should the government be in the business of policing speech even offensive speech. If shame were restored to its proper place in society there wouldn't be any "hate speech".
Pauline, I understand your apprehension. There are indeed ways to respond to offensive comments in a way that does not ignite a war. I highly recommend you check out this document from Tolerance.org. Another resource I like is include Paul Kivel's book Uprooting Racism, and there's a bunch of other stuff you can find easily if you decide to look. One strategy is to phrase your objection with "I" statements, such as "I don't find that joke funny". You can also turn it around to put the offender on the spot, like, "What exactly are you saying about blacks?" I don't deny that it's hard, and feels scary. But I keep in mind the real costs of silence versus the possible costs of speaking up, and that compels me to speak my mind. It gets easier the more you do it.
In truth, I think there are very few instances in which simply saying, "I disagree" or "I find that offensive" will cost someone a job or friendship (or a violin?!) And even if you put the person on the defensive, chances are you will have made him or her think. Good luck.
One only has to look at some other online forums for how some persons abuse the rights of free speech. Without naming other sites, and we all have witinessed it, one can see that often the right to free speech is confused with hate speech. Sometimes the discussions, which some clearly are not, often turn into rants and fanatical soapboxes. The intelligent person can easily determine a logical discussion from a rant, and would move on to more important endevours, as it is a waste of time to attempt to convince persons of ignorance. Some will continue to post, in the hopes of a victory in something that will never come, except in their minds.
V.com seems not to have this problem, and I suspect that much of it comes from the education and respect level of it's members. Policing of the internet an other public access tools and places,is done, to a certain extent. For example, if someone were to write a statement concerning plans to do an act of terrorism, the Secret Service ARE aware of it, and act on it, very quickly, if they determine a single hint of it possibly coming into being. Laurie's example is very good, as the safety of individuals are ivolved. Most persons give themselves away in their delivery style. People online are not as anonomous as they believe they are. I often fine myself gently informing, or possibly reminding others of this when I find such activity may be present.They usually tend to stop immediately, as they are not certain who I may be, at that.
I find younger adults are more guilty of this, and it has a great deal to do with their educaton, as they prove in the manner in which they use common grammar, spelling and sentence structure. As an educator, even though it is primarily musical, I am often helping my students with how they express themselves, be it the written word or the spoken word. My Orchestra teacher taught me to write properly, (yes, that sould have been the english teachers job) as he said that it would be the most important tool I can use in the future. He was very correct in this.
V.com would be a model example of the individuals ability forcontrolled speech and argument process, that expresses an opinion, no matter how prickly, without undue provocation, and proper courtesy to others and their beliefs and feelings. When one committes an error here, it seems they all follow suit with a proper apology, which is a sign of maturity and intelligence that is not found too many places, online or in the street today. One need not go further than common courtesy to know what one should express to others publicly and what to express in their private journals. It comes down to a matter of free speech, or hate speech, for some, as a true representation of the individual and how they want to be percieved by others.
Jim, what on earth did you hear in that clip that would be offensive to old white guys? Yes, I'm wearing the shirt today, too! :)
my way of combating racism is not to dwelve on the past but focus on what i do with people, not just my people, around me. i don't see people pointing fingers at the germans randomly and say, well, because of nazi, you as a people have done others wrong. but i do see outspoken black people doing exactly that toward the whites or the society at large. one point the black people make is that if we do not remind the future generation of the ugly past, our kids and the society may not know where we came from and where we are going to, that black kids may not know their roots and appreciate the tortuous roads their ancestors have endured. i agree with that, about knowing and appreciating ones' heritage. however, if black people turn every griveance into racism, i consider that inappropriate and counterproductive. in fact, it goes as far as turning people off, that people will become desensitized to this very important and sensitive issue. when we define hatred, we may also need to elaborate on the definition of love, the love toward humanity without color filter. black, white, yellow are all colors. when MLK talked about "responsibility" he meant it and most nowadays don't.
i am not interested in politics because essentially there is no accountability with politicians. i do follow politics to see if anyone can outlie bill clinton, the best liar of them all:)
obama gets where he is because he is very good at what he is doing, not because he is black. many of his followers, however, support him because of one thing, that he is black.
i have asked sam couple questions, things that are probably on other people's minds as well but they are perhaps too prim and proper to ask themselves. to put it all together with "eloquence and elegance", with book references, in the historical context, for sam, may take some time, so i understand. but here is my take on the situation based on his initial post and others' reactions:
sam was overly aggressive, if will, with his friend, on "taking the guy to task". i think that is obvious to everyone, but, it seems to me that no one has come out to question sam about that directly and i see situations like that often in this society. it is not hypocricy or even disruption of harmony at the workplace. what it is is that if and when a disagreement occurs with a black person, people simply do not know how to deal with it for fear that it will evolve or dissolve into issues of racism. political correctness is so darn incorrect if you ask me.
silence is this case does not mean consent. it means ok, whatever. the issues have never been confronted but swept under. musicians with performance anxiety know exactly what i am talking about.
Laurie, what do you think a domestic security force with funding equal to the U.S. military does? Make people to by tickets to the Pasadena Symphony? Keep us from yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater?
Samuel, I'm not attacking you as a person. I was trying to say I don't think he's the best choice of all the choices available to condemn racism with. If he finally did see the light, his legacy is still one of militant racism, unfortunately, or that's my lifelong perception at least. Incidentally, I read the autobiography (finished after his death I think) in the early 80s or late 70s in a black reading room at the university I was attending. I must have been the first white boy ever in there, because the whole time I was thought I was going to get my ass 'impolitely asked to leave' any minute just for being there. And there was no talking your way out of that kind of thing. To have actually lived through some of this stuff, stuff like that reading room that's unfathomable now, you wouldn't believe. Also, in junior high my best friend was black, and my father wouldn't let him in the house because of it. But, my father slaughtered a hog once and gave parts of it, the soul food parts ;), he knew somehow, to a black man we knew, John, to be nice. It was so different then. I remember my father talking about a black man he went to college with who was working as a janitor decades later, and my father did see the problem on some level. It was unimaginably different back then. To experience this stuff back when it was the 'official' thing, rather than just the thought of some crazy individual.
"Make people to by tickets "
lol. I didn't write that. I'm not claiming responsibility for that :))
Linking to Wikipedia is a Cop Out of the Highest Magnitude.
What's going on with the fonts on this thread!
There are indeed ways to respond to offensive comments in a way that does not ignite a war. I highly recommend you check out this document from Tolerance.org. Another resource I like is include Paul Kivel's book Uprooting Racism, and there's a bunch of other stuff you can find easily if you decide to look. One strategy is to phrase your objection with "I" statements, such as "I don't find that joke funny". You can also turn it around to put the offender on the spot, like, "What exactly are you saying about blacks?" I don't deny that it's hard, and feels scary. But I keep in mind the real costs of silence versus the possible costs of speaking up, and that compels me to speak my mind. It gets easier the more you do it.
Thanks for this link. In these situations I find myself sputtering or saying awkwardly, "Um, I guess we will have to just agree to disagree." My kids struggle with this all the time. So many of their (supposedly liberal, affluent, educated, classical musician) friends have incorporated glib but insidious references in their everyday speech. An ineffectual person or stupid situation is referred to as "gay". A predominantly black neighborhood, or even the mixed neighborhood where our family lives, is called "sketch". This kind of language is so ingrained that it emerges almost sub-consciously and certainly self-consciously. These are kids from liberal-voting families who would proclaim, along with their parents, that they are color blind. Racism and other forms of bigotry are more deeply ingrained in our culture than most of us would like to believe. As for "color blindness", I have only ever heard white people claim to possess this virtue. Not having to think about race on a daily basis is a privelege of not having suffered, or suffered much because of race.
Corwin, I know you meant what you wrote with the best possible intentions, but I'm pretty sure your Asian friend's parents were a little more culturally specific in their requirements for their daughter's future husband. Most Korean families, for example, would not be pleased about their daughter marrying a Japanese man (if they have these kinds of qualms.) It's just another example of white privelege when we lump people of color together, failing to differentiate between vastly different cultures of peoples spanning so much of the globe.
Oh, shoot! The above comment was written by me, not my daughter, but I didn't realize that she was logged in on the computer. Robert, can we do something to make it possible to delete blog comments, or at least edit them? :D
I agree with your statement that peoples or groups of people who are having problems in America feel sorry for themselves and tend to blame others for their short falls and failures.
I disagree that Obama has gotten where he is because he is good at what he does unless you are referring to his ability to deliver a prepared speech. For me I have not seen anything that he has done or said that demonstrates his ability to be my President at this time.
Most of what he has presented is counterproductive to the America and its founding principles
1. Take from hard working Americans that make somewhere between 250K and 150K, the number is not really clear, and give to a portion of American that choose not to capitalize on the opportunities of this country.
2. His idea that the U.S Constitution is a flawed document that limits Gov. Powers and doesn’t elaborate on what Gov. should do he doesn’t get it. That is the intent of our founding documents it concerns me that he wants to change the very core of it.
3. His idea of a Civilian Security Force equal to strength and funding of our Military has shades or implications of a Nationalist Socialist agenda. This should be a great concern to all.
haha e, as i was reading caeli's post she started saying about HER kids, i knew the mom goofed!
richard, appreciate your clarification on my statement. i really hesitate getting into the specifics about politics and policies here but in response to you on the tax part, here is something from a guy i know. could be a typical or atypical story. he has a little retail joint hiring 6-7 people, clearing under 70k a year. ok money but he works his butt off, definitely does not have time to come to v.com to post. so obama's plan may work for him. but here is the other part of the story. his suppliers are bigger corps with over 250k income. if they are squeezed, they will pass the cost down to him. in the end, he will pay relatively less tax on absolutely less income.
now, to play devil's advocate, richard, if mac drops dead (oh, how can al say that, he is such a bad person), do you think palin can step up competently?
richard, isn't socialist simply a person with a facebook account?
"...mac drops dead ..., do you think palin can step up competently?"
She does run a state, more than O'Bama has done. I can't handle either ideologically, but she would be "competent" in the sense you mean.
...and bigwigs in national govt. think so as well.
Corwin said: "Laurie, You say there are limitations on hate speech. What are they? I don't believe there are any legal limitations on what people can say to other people including racist, derogatory, and demeaning statements. But I could be wrong. Nothing jumped out at me in your link as establishing the illegality of hate speech."
You have freedom if speech, but there are always consequences to what you say. That is just like free will, we all have it, but if we use in a wrong way there will be consequences. Consequences for hate speech and actions: Expelled from schools, fired from jobs, Jail time, Lawsuit (especially if it appears in writing and is considered a libelist statement, or slander for spoken derogatory statements toward another person), and I am sure there is a lot more.
And I suspect she is the most "Jeffersonian" of the four.
Facebook not sure and can Palin set up sure as good as any other alternative if not better.
As a matter of fact I could step in and do a better job then any of our current poltiical clowns. I am as or better educated and I have been around.
step up not set up typo
"As a matter of fact I could step in and do a better job then any of our current poltiical clowns. I am as or better educated and I have been around. "
nah,,,you need more experiences with spin:)
Thanks for your vote of confidence.
Anyway I intend to stick with trying to drag this bow across these strings and make some noise.
Al wrote, haha e, as i was reading caeli's post she started saying about HER kids, i knew the mom goofed!
This only reinforces the perception that my mission in life is to embarrass my kids. The only thing worse is when I accidentally post from their facebooks.
Robert, if you're reading this, it would be so great for families who have multiple users on a single computer, if there could be a space in the top panel that says which account is logged in. Livejournal has such a feature: you can log in or out without changing page and can see which account is logged in.
Mrs. Smith, Would it make it less racist if I were more specific? Would the parents of this woman have been more justified? I didn't say all this earlier but their issue wasn't cultural, they didn't need her to marry someone who spoke the same language or practiced the same religion. They, in fact, were Christian but they had no requirement that she marry a Christian. Now when that hierarchy is present one has to suspect racism don't you think?
Thanks Jim, I've been searching for the term to describe her probable attitude toward Governance.
corwin,,,,yes! when racism is not as blatant, it tends to sneak under the radar. when asian parents think their kids must marry asian, the main theme is that other races "are not good enough" and their future kids will look "different". if questioned , the parents will say, well, it is for your own good. just like when being questioned why they have to practice violin so hard,,,same thing,,,for your own good. in reality and in movies, you often see a daughter challenging the father why she wants to marry this "foreign" guy. then the father pounds on the table and announce: it's for you own good! if you marry him, i don't have you as a daughter. then he puts a hand on his chest as if a heart attack is coming on. then the daughter storms out of the room in tears, catching the helpless mom in the hallway... it is as sad as it is funny because it is so predictable.
so yes, the double standards among asians can make you choke on your hot and sour soup.:)
e, you stole my line that my being is to embarass my kids:)
Karin, thanks so much for your suggestions. They sound very useful and practical. I'll look up the website you referred me to.
I think a domestic security force might have come in handy after Katrina.
I still don't see the connection between that and some big scary threat to old white guys.
"I think a domestic security force might have come in handy after Katrina."
We already have this its called the local police, State National Guards, augmented by the States BI organizations, then the FBI, ATF etc...
The need for an internal civilian security organization with the capability of the current U.S. Militray isn't at all needed or wanted and a risky proposition. Such an organization would be used for what is the real question? Such an organization also usurps state rights and has the greatest probablity of being abused with tragic cosnequences to our liberties. I for one do not trust our current crop of corrupt leaders and surly not to have this kind of power.
We need to demand that the current organizations are lead and managed by responsible, capable and quailified leaders. And that is up to us right now and must remain that way.
Please search google for:
E. Smith, each member of your family has her own account or can get one. Then you can each log in and log out of v.com. Each of you has her own password. Am I right, Robert?
<i>E. Smith, each member of your family has her own account or can get one. Then you can each log in and log out of v.com. Each of you has her own password. Am I right, Robert?</i>
Yes, of course. My point is that when logged in you cannot see which account is logged in unless, in fact, you first log out. Other sites such as LJ or FB allow you to see at a glance which account you're in from the bar at the top of the browser.
Otherwise, it is to make a simple error of posting in the wrong account.
Mrs. Smith, Would it make it less racist if I were more specific? Would the parents of this woman have been more justified? I didn't say all this earlier but their issue wasn't cultural, they didn't need her to marry someone who spoke the same language or practiced the same religion. They, in fact, were Christian but they had no requirement that she marry a Christian. Now when that hierarchy is present one has to suspect racism don't you think?
Corwin, I do hold that reference you made has a whiff of, if not racism, then racial and cultural insensitivity. I'm not sure I follow the rest of your question since I was directing my criticism at your description of these people, not at what you report they said to you. I was pointing out that your description of them as "Asian" was reductive, since their cultural identity was more specific, although perhaps not from your point of view.
Laurie, when I said it's posible to be bigoted against old white guys ;) it was because I sense your position really is against them, more than it is -for- someone. Then I linked to the vid, to ask how could anyone support that. I didn't mean to say the video is bigoted against old white guys.
Read what Bill suggested. The main goal of the founding fathers was to address the problem that it is common enough human nature to persue as much power over others as is possible, at the expense of that peoples' liberty. Regarding a security force and Katrina relief, maybe you think such a force would relive us all, 24/7 :) I think you think that. Poor Richard said those who trade liberty for security will get neither. The result is not your security, but rather power over you turned into a commodity and the end of liberty.
...and your real security is your liberty...where's E.'s edit button?
Jim, I'm fine with old white guys. Especially if they are wearing "Obama" shirts. I'd even talk to them in supermarkets.
I was asking his supporters about that vid, only to find out what he means. They never heard of what he's saying there. Clearly an informed group. Then they say it's Repub. propaganda and I say you misunderstand, it's from a speech, then they say it's propaganda, and I say no it's from a speech, and I never get through. Then they gleefully tell me it's a done deal (according to the polls). I think the procedure is to close your eyes and floor the gas. Wheee!
Thank you for sharing this. I realize I am coming a little late to this blog, but at least the comments section hasn't closed yet.
I just wanted to comment personally on the experience of taking other people to task in the workplace. When I was in graduate school, 15-20 years ago, I tried to do this more often than I do now. Perhaps it was the recklessness (or courage) of youth. Perhaps it was the desire to try out new convictions, to stand up and be counted. I grew up in a conservative, WASP-y family. My parents disagreed with each other about politics and usually voted for different candidates; and I experienced political discussions around the dinner table as both too personal and highly unpleasant.
When I moved across the country to graduate school, I finally felt freer of this dynamic. But I made quite a few missteps nonetheless. Most often, in an echo of what I grew up with, what would happen is that I would try to "take someone to task" and they would turn it around, change the subject and make it personal. So what might start out as a discussion on ethnic minorities in science between myself (a white woman) and another white participant would morph into a discussion of feminism and women in science--something personal that was about me directly. I remember, for example, having a discussion with a white male postdoc that began with him saying, bitterly, that he wasn't going to get an academic job in science because he wasn't black or a woman. I experienced this statement of his as unfair and inaccurate, but my response just made him angrier, caught as he was in the anxieties surrounding his own job search.
Much later, I think now that his comments were motivated by his own insecurities and with him not there in front of me, I can step back and not take them personally. But I was not able to do that back then. At the time, I got caught up in a similar toxic anger fueled by my own insecurities about my own ability to succeed or get a job.
Over time I have become more circumspect about bringing politics into my day-to-day interactions in order to keep from getting angry and tied up in knots myself, in order to "live and fight another day." Case in point I have a co-worker who is one of my best friends at work. He and I disagree politically on many issues facing Massachusetts voters. You probably know that same-sex marriage has been the law of the land in Massachusetts for several years. I've been in a traditional marriage to the same man for the last 11 years so this is not personal to me in that way, but several of my good friends from church have been active in that political process, to the point of being on the news, with their partners. Our minister has been performing same-sex marriage ceremonies years before the state caught up. And in watching their struggle, over time, that issue has become personal to me.
So when my co-worker makes a comment against same-sex marriage, I do struggle with what to say, if anything. And I hold my tongue. In this case there is a component of its being out of deference to those whose fight it is. I feel that I, as a married heterosexual, don't really have the moral standing to speak for my friends. I haven't really lived their pain, I can only imagine it through some imperfect and inadequate analogy. To some extent I feel similarly, as a white person, about racism. I have not felt its sting the way others have and it seems presumptuous for me to speak for them.
There is an extent to which I understand the burden of having to be the mouthpiece for a particular disadvantaged group. My boss, as a successful woman in science, is asked to speak about diversity issues in science all the time in ways that her male colleagues are not. This is a burden that she usually takes on willingly, even happily, because she believes in the value of diversity. It is part of my job to help her with this sort of communication, when I can. But even though we consider ourselves fellow travelers with ethnic minorities in science, neither of us can pretend to really understand their struggles. Racism, sexism, heterosexism, all those -isms, have some similarities, but they aren't the same.
And by holding my tongue in this instance I feel that I can be a more effective employee. My workplace is very diverse. We have people working here who hail from several different continents. Women, men, married and unmarried, same- and opposite-sex couples. Democrat and Republican. I don't want the people who aren't like me, or who disagree with me politically, to be afraid they're going to be "taken to task" when they walk into my office. I want them to feel welcome when they walk into my office and to stay. The best way--really the only way in my experience--for people to broaden their outlook and change their minds is slowly, over time. If they learn to live and work a new way, day to day.
Karen, well said!
Mrs. Smith I apologize for not being diverse enough when using the description Asian. However in fact the woman I described was expected by her parents to marry either Chinese, Japanese or Korean but not Caucasian. Now given numerous cultural antipathies between these three ethnicities it may surprise you that her fully American parents would prefer this to a mixed race marriage but that they did.
But is shocks me somewhat that you would excuse this on cultural grounds. This is a very wide door that admits a lot of behavior that we typically call racist. Well perhaps it isn't racist. The family of a young woman of musical and literary accomplishment may indeed prefer that she not get mixed up with a dropout rapper from the inner city on purely cultural grounds. Hmmmm.
But what if the family of this young woman said no to someone of identical race but who was a neurosurgeon? Would it still be culture? There are certainly generations of cultural precedents. Or are they racist precedents? How wide is that door...?
“I’m still grappling with the idea of voting for a Black man.”
How many of the 97% of black voters who are for Obama (according to Yahoo) grappled with the idea of voting for a white man? lol.
this is such a great discussion I am desperate to find the time to print it out , sit down and really grapple with what is being said.
As far as the original situaiton is concerned, I have reached a point in my life when I would try to accept and apply the following precepts to the best of my ability.
1) We should always honor the opinion of another even though we disagree with its content. It is by denying the other person the right to exist that we continue to create and foster hatred at the deepest levels.
2) We cannot change other people except by living ourselves according to our highest ideal.
3) No matter how dififcult it is, we should not judge the person concerned as either good or bad. This is simply where they are at this moment in their life. This goes hand in hand with point two.
4) If we are feeling anger or rage then it is connected deeply with something we fear and need ot resolve. I would have to ask myself, for example, if I` am at some level afraid that I am racist.
5) We can and should tell the truth to ourselves about ourselves first and strive to tell the truth to others. In this case, in my opinion, telling the truth about how you feel is appropriate.
6) If the other person repsonds with anger or hostility then that is where they are . It is the quality of the message sent, not the way it is recieved that matters.
On a broader note I think it is only when we can creat work plays more precisly called `joy places` in which honesty is paramount will people be able to communiate freely on these matters and grow as individuals. This would embrace factorsd like transparency of pay and work equality, honesty and repsetc internally(sexual harassment and prejudice) and between company and cusatomer and so forth.
A paltry two cents,
I quite agree Brivati-Sensei.
I want to add/concur that discriminating against someone based on their pigmentation, shape of their face or other racial characteristic is loathsome.
But there are cultures that are absolutely better than other cultures. This has nothing to do with race. I for one believe that Western European culture is a higher and better culture than Eastern European culture. Both are well informed by Christianity but there are important differences that suggest to me that Western European culture is superior. I am pleased when an Eastern European examines his culture and discards the inferior elements of it in favor of superior elements of the one I value. I am enriched when he introduces me to superior elements of his culture and allows me the opportunity to appreciate them and adopt them.
If we cannot acknowledges that some values are higher than other values and that culture is the method of their transmission we will soon have no values and no culture
Buri, the problem we have now has it's roots in the fact that reverse racism is still permitted or encouraged, rather than all racism being discouraged and fairness encouraged. Middle-class young people here are taught that reverse racism is impossible actually, since racism is a method of deprevation rather than a behavior, and if I don't have the power to deprive you, it's impossible for me to be racist. It explains how some people have become icons, while their white equivalents are (rightfully) reviled.
This is an engineered mode of thought, the same as the term "African-American" was engineered and dominated in the media overnight sometime in the 80s. The goal is to redistribute power, not promote fairness. There's a significant difference that I think will stick us with this problem for a long time to come.
Corwin, visit a foreign country were things are stable, and you'll find a culture that's just as intricate and interesting and crazy as what we have here. Maybe even a lot less frustrating ;) Humans create interesting cultures everywhere. It's what they do.
Where's my damn edit button? I hope that didn't sound technologically bigoted.
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November 2, 2008 at 01:14 AM · Sam, I agree with you. I subscribe to the belief that "silence gives consent." The problem for me is not to sound as emotional as I feel.