Archive for Racism

Chloe and Marissa

Posted in Politics with tags , on November 10, 2008 by gyma


I haven’t written much about the historical and social significance of electing Barack Obama as the first African-American president. 

These are my nieces, Chloe on the left and Marissa on the right.  They are my sister’s daughters and they were raised in the suburbs of Washington, DC.  They are bi-racial – my brother-in-law is a doctor at the University of Maryland Medical Center.  Chloe takes after her father, both in looks, temperament, and intelligence.  Marissa takes after her mother for the same reasons.

My sister died last December from breast cancer before the Iowa Caucuses, so she didn’t have the benefit of seeing Obama win.  I was in Maryland at the time attending her funeral and my brother-in-law was more than a bit surprised by the news.  I’ve spoken to him several times since then and he remained highly skeptical throughout that a black man could be elected president.  I’ve tried reaching him since the election but he’s been unavailable, so I can’t tell you what he’s thinking now.  But I’m going to assume he’s shocked and joyful, to say the least.

I grew up in southeastern Wisconsin, in a lily-white community of 900.  The community was too small to support a high school, so five neighboring communities pooled their youth.  It wasn’t until I entered high school, at the age of 14, that I encountered any African-Americans.  There was one black family out of all five communities.

My sister was 5 1/2 years older so she went to a different high school for a few years, and I can’t say whether she encountered blacks in high school, but I think not.  She trained at Columbia Hospital, in Milwaukee, to become a nurse, and it’s most likely there that she had interactions with the African-American community.

We never discussed race that much, but I remember visiting her after she graduated from nursing school to discover she was the only white person on a female softball team.  I don’t really know how that happened.  A few years later she joined the Peace Corps and spent four years in Mauritania, Africa.  It was when she returned to the United States that she met her husband.

She always advocated for racial equality and was a much stronger opponent of racism than my brother-in-law.  I think he had given up hope and decided it was better to go along to get along.  The last time I saw my sister was in August 2007 when I went to Maryland to help her get Chloe settled into boarding school.  At the time she was angry that there weren’t more blacks enrolled at the school, even though the school professed to embrace diversity.  

You might think my nieces are immune from racism, but I can assure you they aren’t.  My brother-in-law has two older children from his first marriage, along with two bi-racial grandchildren.  The entire family socialize regularly and often travel together.  Marissa does not appear bi-racial, but her best friend is African-American and she doesn’t think twice about dating either blacks or whites.  In some ways her world is more open because of these options, but she still feels the residual racism that permeates our society.

My greatest hope is that President-elect Obama will be the beginning of the end of racism, so all Americans, regardless of their color or ethnicity, can develop to their full potential. 

My only wish is that my sister had lived long enough to see it happen.


Racist Obama Billboard

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on October 12, 2008 by gyma

This billboard is located in West Plains, Missouri, a town where I worked for 7 years (1992-1999).  At the time we lived on 40 acres outside Willow Springs, a community of about 2,000 just north of West Plains.

The people of this area, located in the Missouri Ozarks north of the Arkansas state line, are most likely Scots-Irish descendants, what are often referred to as “rednecks.” 

One thing is certain – there weren’t many minorities living in this part of the country, and for good reason.  The locals were very clannish who would be outwardly friendly when doing business with you, but not at all interested in befriending you.

We purchased our 40 acres while living in the San Francisco Bay area and rented the house on a month-to-month lease.  About 6 months after buying the house, Mr. gyma lost his job, and it didn’t appear another job would be offered anytime soon.  We decided to make our move earlier than we wanted and sent a 6-week notice to our renters.

When we arrived in town and stopped at the local real estate office to pick up the keys, we were told the renters had not moved out because they couldn’t find another place to live.  Shortly thereafter we received a letter from a local attorney, hired by our renters, threatening to take the house away from us because we failed to give the notice before such-and-such date.  It was all bluster and within 10 days they had moved.  In the meantime we were homeless and forced to live in a tent at the local campground.

As it turns out that was one of the best things that happened to us because we met and became friends with the owner, known to us as Miss Bobbie.  She was in her late 60s and ran the campground alone after her husband had died a few years before from cancer.  She was an Oklahoma native but had raised her children in the Ozarks and was well-known in the community.  And she was funny as all hell.

I give you this background because it was Miss Bobbie who told us that when she first moved to Willow Springs there was a billboard on the highway just outside the city limits.  The sign said something like “Welcome to Willow Springs.  Don’t let the sun go down on your sorry black ass.”  Gives you an idea of the type of folks living in this neck of the woods.

I wasn’t surprised, then, when I saw this news article about the racist billboard.  It does fit the mentality of the people living there while we were there.  I do think, though, that there are more and more people moving to that area from outside the Ozarks and they will have a tempering influence on the locals.

How Racism Works

Posted in Politics with tags , , on September 25, 2008 by gyma

This was posted at TPM Cafe as a reprint of a letter to the editor in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and is a succint take on racism, I think:

How racism works

What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said “I do” to?
What if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she no longer measured up to his standards?

What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not only became addicted to pain killers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama were a member of the “Keating 5”?
What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does.
It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.

– Kelvin LaFond, Fort Worth

[h/t Time Goes By]

America The (Not So) Beautiful

Posted in Politics with tags , , on September 24, 2008 by gyma
The Denver Post, Kathryn Scott Osler

The Denver Post, Kathryn Scott Osler

I guess we knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier to stomach.  This makes me ill.

  1. Obama Hanged in Effigy
  2. Student Suspended for Anti-Obama T-Shirt
  3. Racist Anti-Obama Fliers Distributed

And let’s not forget Rush Limbaugh’s falsely and repeatedly claiming Obama is an Arab-American.

There really is a better way to show your support or opposition of a political candidate.  Perhaps I’m really turning a blind eye here, but it seems to me that the left tends to use more humor in making its point.  Or is hanging someone in effigy now considered funny?

Anyone else think hate radio is largely responsible for these feelings?

[via Sully, Denver Post, Eschaton]