Friday, March 21, 2008

"Typical White Person"

This morning (Thursday 3/20/08) on WIP AM 610 Sports Radio in Philadelphia, host Angelo Cataldi interviewed Senator Obama. During the beginning of the segment (about 07:40 AM) Mr. Cataldi asked the Senator about his comments made during his speech on Tuesday regarding his “white” grandmother.

From the tape of today's interview, here is Obama's answer:

"The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, she doesn't, but she is a typical white person who, uh, you know if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, there's a reaction there that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way. And that's just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it. And what makes me optimistic is we see each generation feeling a little bit less like that."

I turned the radio on this morning just in time to hear the short excerpt which included the above quotation. I hadn't heard anything about this morning's interview before; it was all brand new to me. I'd heard Obama's speech on Tuesday, thought it was good, rousing, quite inspirational though I was sort of off-put by the "white grandmother" remarks. I remembered hearing Jesse Jackson confess one time that when he could hear someone following him on the street he'd be relieved when, looking over his shoulder, he'd discover they were white. He was unhappy feeling that way, but said his own real-life experiences had taught him thus. On Tuesday I thought during Senator's Obama's speech that the reactions he attributes to his grandmother are not 'white only.' They are human. And so are the problems.

I'd put the Tuesday speech aside in my mind until I heard today's remarks by the Senator. "Typical white person"? Huh? "Bred into our experiences"? Bred?

I felt insulted when I heard the remarks in the first speech and the remarks today only intensify those feelings. It seems to me that remarks like this incite racism rather than illuminate it for the wrong-thinking that it is. Just as Senator Obama cringed at his grandmother's remarks, I'm cringing at his.

I find it difficult to think of voting for a man who obviously broadly sterotypes me. I'm beginning to sense that Senator Obama may be a wolf in sheep's clothing.

My choices are becoming clearer.


Mike S said...

Sadly, we all stereotype folks, even if in very subtle ways. Growing up, as the only minority student in our little school system in the 50s, I had the hatred by those of other races(all white there)drummed into me in many ways. Even though I tried to instill an aversion to prejudice in all my kids, society still undid some of my efforts in insidious ways.
Racism is a worldwide problem and has been through-out human history. It's a bit like losing weight. We don't put it on overnight, but we expect it to melt away as soon as we identify it as a problem.
Even the most timid and loving among us still have within them that capacity to develop intolerance, the best we can do, as imperfect beings, is to continue to battle against what seems to be in our nature as humans to do.
Old Indian go be quiet now and watch cowboy movie onna big screen that catches pictures from the skies:)

Marianne Elixir said...

Well, this is nicer than the way I put it to my husband last night, I said I was worried he was an anti-Christ.

Wandering Coyote said...

I don't think it's possible for a white person to really comprehend what it's like to be a racial minority in a white majority, and we never will no matter how far we evolve as a culture.

You may feel stereotyped, Cherie, but I do not think that was his intention. And remember how that quote ends: "We have to break through it. And what makes me optimistic is we see each generation feeling a little bit less like that."

That's far more the attitude I'd like to see in a leader than anything that's come from Hillary's mouth.

Anonymous said...

This is a tough one. My father was disgustingly prejudice against anything that was not his color or attitude. I am much less than that, but growing up I'm ashamed to say it took me a while to unlearn the hatred my father taught me. My children are much less than I, and I hope it has come to an end in my family. How many others struggle with this kind of hate and don't know it? Words pop up and if we are in the public eye we are shamed for our mistakes.

Don't worry Cherie, if Obama is something other than what he is appearing to be, it will show in time. The pressure hasn't even begun. All the candidates will be put to the test of any weaknesses. The question is, which weaknesses will we accept and forgive in our leader.

tony said...

Well ,Even talking about the subject is hopeful/helpful?
I have similar thoughts.My Dad (although i loved him dearly) Was Anti-Semetic.He was born before WW2 in Poland.The Poles are/were deeply anti_Jewish.I was brought up (albiet in England) aware of my Dad's beliefs.
Now.I am not anti-semetic myself.But (because of my Dad)I am aware + have to fight it.For example........whenever i see/meet a stranger, I cant help but think "Oh.(s)he looks Jewish"
.Although (i hope) i dont think any more about it after the intial thought.........I guess I will never be able to fully shake that awareness my Dad gave me.
My Heart Over Rules My "head" these days......If anything I over compensate........But its a sobering thought that inside every Liberal Is a whole system of beliefs from a collective&murky past.

Cherie said...

Mike, WC, Sandy, and Tony: Thank you all for your good comments. As I read them with Cassie I said, "These are thoughtful wise people." And I smiled. Honest dialogue can only help the process and I appreciate yours very much. Lots of clear, candid, experiential insights here.

Yes, for leaders to even talk about it is certainly helpful and preferable to pretending racial tensions don't exist.

And yes again, we do all stereotype and many of us have prejudice as part of our upbringing. Encouraging it is that so many of us battle these prejudices instead of mindlessly adopting them.

One thing I really dislike about the whole election process is the constant manipulation. Just constant! Who to believe? I guess that's why one must look at voting records, a candidate's associations, and previously written and spoken words, etc. because, as we all know, election year political speeches and rhetoric are sale pitches.

Again, I do appreciate the feedback here. It helps keep me from going too far one way or the other. I realize this is a hot topic - I mean my last two posts have been politics and religion; am I asking for it or what? :D - but hot topic or not, I want to think and act from truth and for me, this dialogue helps. So thanks!

Marianne: Anti-Christ huh. I've heard him called Messiah. I guess we'll have to wait and see what kind of miracles he pulls out of his hat before we know which way the wind blows. ; )

cecily said...

It is very interesting watching this from the sidelines (it's on the news nearly every night here)... I am relieved that I do not have to make a decision, though I have to say I'm with WC on this one. I like Obama, we all muck up when in a tight spot, race is a tricky, tricky issue... I'd still rather him than Hilary. But as I said, I don't have to vote here so it doesn't really matter what I think!

Go the bold religious and political posts I say!

Gardenia said...

Yikes - I'm swinging back and forth - your post makes a very valid comment and it is chilling to me that I have said the very same thing about this candidate as you have in re....sheeps' my swing is going another way.....why can't this "race" (political race) just be about justice for all? That takes in race issues, ageism, sexism, corporatism, and lots of other issues that need addressed.

Marianne Elixir said...

Cherie - It is precisely those shouting "Messiah" that make me cringe into whispering - "then an anti-Christ", for there is only One Messiah.

Cherie said...

I'll bet it is interesting watching from the sidelines, Cecily. And it does matter what you think, because you are a fellow traveler on this planet and your insights are valuable - maybe even more so as you are removed from it. WC does have a good point as do you.

No one I talk to seems to like Hilary at all. I know I don't want her to go down in the history books as the first woman President of the U.S. Shudder. Hey, thanks for the cheers for my 'bold religious and political posts'! :D

Gardenia: It's quite a thing, isn't it. Two ways to look at it as you suggest. So you have had the same thought: wolf in sheep's clothing. I guess time will tell for we sure don't have enough information to make a judgement now - sigh...

Marianne: I hope that the people shouting messiah are not using the term as we Judeo-Christians know it. I hope they simply mean one who will save the country from its looming problems, and whatever it is that people personally hope to gain from a 'good' President. For as you said, there is only one Messiah.