Post-Election Diary Of A Mad Barack’d Woman, cont.

As I sit here, my third night of unexplained insomnia, writing and pissed off that I had to go audition for the "Color Purple" this morning in a fatigued state—I realize my mind, body and spirit must be internalizing some stress--And/or perhaps an inner-conflict. Darren jokingly wondered if I suffer from anxiety over this historic election season about to come to a close. He seems to understand how much more is at stake for me. And he knows how it has vexed me to witness the racially charged manipulations have been invoked during this political season. I know that I'm an especially sensitive idealist, and that to some degree I have to be realistic about human nature and our tendency towards vicious competition. But watching, yet one more McCain attack ad using the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy to manipulate voters leaves me disgusted and hot! Are you kidding me!!??

How is anyone buying into to this crap? How did this man's name become so grossly slandered in the midst of a political campaign that he had nothing to do with?

I feel a particularly connected to the case of Rev. Wright as I have attended his church on a few occasions—having been introduced to his congregation by one of my white friends. The first time I heard him preach I was blown away! He was the most brilliant black preacher I had heard in my life. His deep conviction for social justice, his high intellect and the massive community development that has burgeoned out of his church is immeasurable. And the infamous "God-damn America" sermon was actually extraordinary if anyone ever bothered to listen to it in its entirety.

To see how the media, the GOP, and the knuckleheads who put the footage on YouTube have deliberately smeared this man's reputation (and inadvertently misinforming the public about black churches in America) is deplorable.

This added to my disheartened state as a result of canvassing in the ever so red state of Indiana has me looking at America through a pretty ugly lens right now. If Michelle Obama was unpatriotic in her comments about her national pride, where does that leave me and the majority of minorities who remain cynical and pessimistic about this country's social short comings? Is it possible that tomorrow this nation will vote for Barack despite all this fear mongering? Or just fall back on the same old cultural divides we seem to have clinged to for the past eight years?

Then I was reading an article from New Demographic, a website and consulting firm whose self proclaimed mission is, "… (Helping) people learn about the real issues behind race and racism without having to endure the misery of diversity training." The article was titled, "How we are getting racists to vote for Obama" written by a white woman who'd been volunteering for the Obama campaign for the past year and a half.

She went on to explain how she felt that, "a certain percentage of Americans are racist and we just don't worry about losing that vote because we never had it." But how she was then shocked by the realization that there are a category of white Americans who are only somewhat racist but who are "poised to be persuaded." And as she carried on with these various conversations, often with white democrats, she learned that the key was to "…asking these people in a non-judgmental manner if they think the color of Barack's skin is getting in the way for them...they were struggling with deciding to vote for Barack, but they did not seem to want to think of themselves as racist, so they were open to re-thinking their position…"

You can read more of the article at: www.newdemographic.com

Even more intriguing to me were the comments posted in response to the article; from one reader stating,

"...as an African-American I find this notion of having to "persuade" anyone to accept me as a human being who deserves full rights and privileges in this society as offensive"

—To another readers observation that,

"A ton of right-wingers complain that being accused of racism only pushes them more into racism."

I've realized for some time that the discourse of race relations in America has been in need of a change. How we spoke and presented our ideas was no longer working in getting us closer to racial reconciliation. But the notion that as a black, African-American I need to now empathize and be open to listening to some of my prejudicial white fellow Americans is simply mind blowing. This idea was even inferred in Barack's momentous speech on race relations after the fallout of the Rev. Wright video.

His speech, an urgently pressed call to respond from a cynical public--and a response very much paralleled to the nature of the John F. Kennedy's speech on religion and state—Barack shaped a new discourse on race relations—one that challenged the old discourse based in the residual anger of our country's historically imbalanced social structure, and charging us to empathize with the discriminator with as equal of compassion as those discriminated against…

Not surprisingly, I struggle pretty hard with this "empathizing" concept, but mainly because I recognize its' merit. It takes a high measure of humility to approach your perceived adversary this way—and hell, Barack would not have come this far if this weren't one of his great strengths. But there is such a fine line between showing compassion to your enemies (or the racism that's manifest in them) and enabling their dysfunction. It's like the internal conflict Barack expressed that he felt about the prejudiced viewpoints of his own beloved grandmother, who would fear black men in public but lovingly raised and heralded her half-black grandson….

"Color-blindness" and racism dwelling within one mind…and yet out of that comes this great leader. That is humbling.

Michele ThomasComment