Sunday, September 21, 2008

Color Blind? Apparently, Not Yet...

I keep wanting to believe America is a far more advanced, enlightened civilization. I naively believe we're above backwards thinking when it comes to race relations in this country. Then I read an article like this and I'm left disappointed and disgusted with my fellow citizens who are white. And even more disgusted with Democrats who would make a decision as important as electing a president based on an irrelevant demographic label.


Part of what angers me is, I make every effort to suspend demographic labels as a test of value in a person and simply look at them as a human being. That doesn't mean I discount their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, political affiliation, pick-your-label, entirely out of hand. Those labels have meaning and are a part of what make up the whole of a person.

But that's just it: they are only a part of the whole. There is more to a human being than just one label.

For example (and I know I've written this somewhere before): I am female, white, sister, daughter, partner, post-Mormon, humanist, feminist, Democrat, self-employed, domestically-partnered, childless, photographer, writer, editor, blogger, cook, (dapper) dyke, sociologist, and on and on. I am all of those things, but I am not just one of those things. Each of these elements combine to make me the person--the human being--I am. Fixation on just one or two of those labels limits my possibilities as a whole.

I live in a predominantly black neighborhood in upper NW D.C. On our specific street, Bee and I are the only white family, and on the block, Bee and I are one of three white families. On our street specifically, there is one Hispanic family. On the block, two or three Hispanic families make their homes here. The rest of the neighborhood is black. Many of these families have lived here for generations. They are teachers, police officers, government employees, policy wonks, lawyers, electricians, veterans, clergymen/women. They have sons and daughters and grandchildren who return to the neighborhood and care for their parents and grandparents. Is the neighborhood perfect? No. We have one family on the block with a cadre of children who are a bit of trouble, but mostly, it's a quiet, working class, white collar neighborhood where folks care for their families, look out for each other, go to church on Sundays, and work hard.

I've lived in predominantly white neighborhoods with similar reverse composition and there's always one or two families that are known to have the problem kids or the domestic issue now and again. But mostly, they've also been hard-working, heaven-fearing people. It isn't unique to one demographic or another.

We have in a presidential candidate a man who is intelligent, well-spoken, enthusiastic, focused, determined, bright, pick-your-adjective, who also just happens to be black. He is offering solutions at a time when many things in our nation are broken. He is offering us hope--as naive and simplistic as that notion may seem. He may lack a certain level of experience, but he has shown a level head and wisdom that inspire confidence and the belief that, if given a fair shake and a proper amount of time, he can fix some of what's wrong with this country.

And yet, it would seem the one thing he won't be able to fix is the on-going perniciousness of racism and ignorance. There are people out there who won't vote for this candidate simply because he is black. There are Democrats--40% of them--who will let color stand in the way of voting for a qualified candidate.

That makes me inexpressibly sad.

If you're going to not vote for Barack Obama, that is your choice. But I beg of you, please, let it be for something other than the color of his skin. John McCain's whiteness and Barack Obama's blackness have nothing to do with their ability to run our country. How they will address the issues facing us, how they will work with Congress, how they will repair/pursue relations with our allies--these are what matter when choosing a candidate.

Race does not matter. Please vote more intelligently than that and don't insult the candidates by using their skin color as your litmus test for presidential worthiness. It's insulting to them, belittling to our nation, and makes you a fool.


Virginia said...

Amen sister.

Cele said...

I read a similar report to this Saturday morning in the AP. Sad, so very sad that in the 21st century too many of us still have 20th century tunnel vision and base values.

We can battle for the rights and against the wrongs in this world, but seemingly we can't conquer ignorance.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

VJ: Mmmm-hm.

Cele: Ignorance, it would seem, will always prevail in the face of right and justice.