Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Racism Comes With A Convenient Handle

This Presidential race has many people talking about race and how it comes into play during this election. How much does it really matter when it comes to the possibility of a black man being elected to the highest office in the land? I think the reality of listening to the Inaugural Address given by President Obama makes some people very nervous.

I was listening to a recap of the Pennyslvania primary and the commentator was saying how many regions of rural Pennsylvania, being predominately white and blue collar, would cast a vote for Hillary or even John McCain before ever casting their vote for a black man. It still amazes me when I hear outright racist comments or even thinly veiled racist comments coming out of someone's mouth.

Some people are shocked by this, thinking we've come "so far" in regard to racism and that making a comment like this portrays those in question in a poor light. As it should. I, for one, am not shocked by this comment. I do not think we've come all that far at all in this country. In fact, I happen to agree with the comments that Barack Obama made about people being bitter and clinging to their guns and religion.

Maybe people are rankled because Senator Obama spoke the truth. A lot of people live shitty lives. That's the truth. One only has to travel through some of the many poor, rural, industrial or inner city areas to see that. Disgusting living conditions, run down housing, cars that look as if they can't make it across the street let alone across town to a job, kids hanging out in playgrounds with broken swings and drug dealers around the corner. It may not be in your neighborhood, but know that it's out definitely out there.

These already shitty lives are made even more unbearable when bogged down by the high cost of living, the high price of gas, the high price of education and in many areas, the stress of losing a job without another one in sight on the horizon. Why wouldn't you cling to a constant in your life? Why wouldn't you do something you can share with people going through the very same thing as you? Why wouldn't you bond with friends or family either at church or by doing something like going on a hunting trip to bring some joy to your life?

It's not at all elitist to make that observation. To me, it displays someone who is very in touch with exactly what is going on in this country. Even if that person is black. Well, technically, half black. But everyone seems to forget about that.

This week, I had the extreme displeasure of traveling through Texas from Amarillo to Lubbock, south on Interstate 27, right down the middle of what is known as the Texas Panhandle. As with most of Texas, there was not much to see. Two hours of absolutely nothing. In addition to Texas having the ability to immediately depress me, several thoughts bounced around my brain; I wonder if the suicide rate is higher in Texas than the rest of the country? I could die right here, in the middle of the highway and never be discovered. WHY would anyone want to live here? Is that a hotel? What could possibly be the appeal for anyone to visit?

As I crossed into Swisher County I drove through Happy, Texas, which is perhaps the most ill-conceived name for a town smack dab in the middle of a most unhappy place, before coming into the town of Tulia. When I saw the sign, I thought, what a pretty name for a town. I wonder if it's pronounced Too-lee-ah or Tool-ya. Hmm.

I read that some people consider the southern border of Swisher County to be the southern border of the panhandle region, while others consider the panhandle to extend all the way down to Lubbock. It's kind of handy that the state of Texas has a handle, as it makes it easier to grab on to and huck right out the window.

Little did I know though, that the town with the pretty name had such a
ugly story to tell. Apparently the story had been reported in the national media, but since I can't read everything, I guess I missed it. And as much as I'd like to think that this country has made progress with situations of this nature, I am brought back into reality with stories like this, which tell me we really have not progressed at all. It's shameful.

A movie about this incident, starring Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton, is currently in production and is supposed to be out this year. Maybe shedding some light on the what happened will bring awareness to so many people who don't know the story, like I didn't.

As it says at the end of the linked article, " the time of the Governor's pardons...thirty-eight people dad cumulatively spent over 70 years wrongly imprisoned in Texas jails and is a telling commentary on deep rooted defects in this country’s judicial process that the legal lynching of the pardoned Tulia defendants will never be officially condemned by a court in this country. Yet the three ringleaders that orchestrated their wrongful convictions walk the streets as if they were respectable folks."

Chalk this up as one more reason for me to dislike Texas. As it stands right now, it seems the only good thing to come out of Texas so far is my Eddie.


J said...

I hate Texas, for so many reasons.

As for Lubbock - the teen pregnancy rate there is really high. Not much else to do. See "The Education of Shelby Knox" - available on Netflix.

As for people being racist - of course. Plenty of people who are sexist, too. Gender is a huge issue, too. I'm sure that there are plenty who will vote male over female any day, just as there are many who will vote white over black. Depressing no matter how you look at it. "Best candidate," my ass. "Individual who is least threatening to me personally, regardless of actually positions or experience" is more like it.

(One more glass of wine and I'll solve world hunger, dontchaknow).

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Let it be said that I voted for Clinton and hope to do so again (unlesss Al Gore will please please come and save us).


I happen to be from rural PA, and I have to admit that I've gone back and forth about Obama's comment. My first, gut reaction was that he was right and speaking the truth that is sometimes hard to hear. I think what is often left off of the discussion is his idea that people are JUSTIFIABLY bitter--I think he said that, or at least implied it. The phrasing, undoubtedly, was bad though.

My other reaction is one of protectiveness and a need to explain (defend!) that religion and guns didn't come about b/c of bitterness...that's what makes it sound condescending. Hunting is *very* popular b/c, hey, we'd be overrun by deer if it wasn't...and we can't afford to buy a lot of meat at the grocery store...and....and...and...

I actually *don't* think Obama meant it the way it's been interpreted (and I find it disgusting that it's become such an issue), but for a whole lot of people who weren't going to vote for him anyway, that certainly didn't help.

So I'm torn. Obama's comment is dead on if poorly phrased BUT I'm also feeling the whole "Yeah my family is CRAZY and I can say that, but don't YOU touch them" thing, you know?

Also, I can tell you that Obama's alleged ties with Islam are really more of a problem with a lot of the rural Pennsylvanians I know; how closely connected that is with being (half)black, well, that's a darn good question.

Eddie's from Texas? Get out! Does he have an accent?

Anonymous said...

I haven't managed to read this entire post yet (getting there shortly) but I have to say, I agree with the 'people have shitty lives and this makes them angry and bitter'.

Overheard someone say the other day that all the energy saving light bulbs in walmart made them sick. They couldn't REALLY be that bent out of shape with green bulbs. Something else is going on in their lives and that something else is making them lash out.

I'm not sure that Obama should have said what he said - mainly because he ran the risk of alienating the upset masses. But I understand what he meant. I understand it completely.