Thursday, October 16, 2008

Racism Encouraged, Racism Ignored

This is a very brief post, brought about because I’m simply upset at the way some of the current political discussions have gone surrounding the presidential campaigns. I am not someone who focuses a lot of time on federal politics – I prefer to act locally and look towards alternatives - but I cannot deny that the current presidential campaigns have revealed a deeply disturbing part of America.

Surprisingly, it is not that so many people in the US are racist and sexist or that people allow their racist and sexist feelings to move them towards violence. Anyone who has experienced racism or sexism – whether on a daily basis or to a life-threatening degree – is aware that these prejudices are alive and well in our country. What shocks me is that we have candidates running for the public face of America who would allow racially motivated attacks and violent attacks against another person to go un-checked in their campaigns.

Whether or not McCain and Palin are themselves racist (and seeing that McCain has an interracially adopted child and Palin is married to a man with Indigenous Alaskan background, I hope for the families they are not) you would think that the covert smarmy political choice would be to renounce acts of bold-faced racism. After all, we know that our political system is encouched in a racist structure and that racist politicians are routinely elected on a local level, and that our previous presidents have behaved in racist (and sexist, classist, homophobic, and ableist) behaviors. There’s really no other word for the welfare reform, treatments of Katrina, current immigration policies, etc etc than prejudiced. But those are veiled (however thinly), and it seemed to me that no national political figure would actually encourage overt racism from their fan base. My surprise is directly connected to my privilege yet I have found many friends to be equally shocked by the overt nature of this campaign. McCain and Palin not only encourage this behavior, they refuse to apologize for it.

Keith Olbermann sums up many of my issues in this beautiful video (kudos to my partner for finding it)

If you want to know more about John Lewis check out Monica Roberts’s blog post about him and his comments.

Also, in this New York Times op-ed by Frank Rich

In this New Yorker column by Hendrik Hertzberg

Finally, in this piece from The Press Registrar by Michelle DeArmond

The friend who forwarded me this last piece, and my partner whom I showed it too both had the same reaction: “people make me sick”. It’s telling that these horrific images can only be discussed in the realm of the physical – the literal desire to purge oneself of the evil just witnessed.

To try and end this on a more hopeful note – I have been volunteering with the Obama campaign to register voters and I am overwhelmed by the number of new registrants who have not voted since the 1980s, 1950s, and even a few from the 1920s. People are clearly responding to the issues brought up by these campaigns in a way that they have never responded to any individuals before. Whether or not Obama delivers on his end, I hope people continue to see their own involvement and importance in these discussions: and moreover that complacent white folk wake up to the every da realities of racism. I believe that we will rise to the challenge and work more to educate each other and ourselves on racism and ways of anti-racism.


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