Making an Ass of U and Me

(Warning: The first (of probably many) posts that will most likely alienate me from 70% of my readers…because I always seem to be in the minority.)

I have very loosely kept an ear out about the Obama-Addressing-the-Children speech. When it was first criticized my impressions were that parents didn’t want their children to be exposed to political rhetoric, “brain washed” to agree with the latest health care bill. Ok. I get it. Personally, I wouldn’t want my young, impressionable children exposed to that either. As a former teacher, we were not allowed to express our political views in the classroom. It’s not the place. Even if it IS the President of the United States. Now if both sides are represented, such as political debate, that’s a different story, a learning opportunity. Which is why, I thought, parents were upset.

Then, as the event neared, copies of the speech spread through the internet. It became obvious that the speech was an innocuous attempt to encourage children to value education, value and believe in themselves.  Then I came across this article reminding us that George H. W. Bush (the first George Bush) did the same thing: spoke to students and the Democrats cried, “FOUL!” Reading further I find that this is something every president since Ronald Reagan has done.  Former First Lady Barbara Bush (the second one) said on television she supported Obama’s “speech” to the school age children.

As soon as I was armed with this new information I came to the conclusion that this whole stunt was political grandstanding. The bru ha ha seemed silly. Just another attempt of the Republican party to put a wrench in our president’s progress.

 Ridiculous. Overblown. Insignificant.

Then I started reading the blogs out there. And comments on Facebook. And the twittering. And more than one – ok, just about every one – brought up race. “Those redneck parents are just racist.” (Speaking of the parents in Texas) “Get over it. Our president is black. Live with it.” I’m not talking about the news media suggesting that race was an issue. I’m saying that individuals out there on their blogs, twitters and status bars are still, STILL focusing on the race of our president. And my plea?  Get. Over. It. Please.

How can race be an issue with the majority of Americans, as many would like us to believe, if we elected a 1/2 black ( remember- ’cause he’s also part German and Irish – his mother’s side- just like me!)  President of the United States? Yes, 95% of black voters voted for Barack Obama. But, turnout of black Americans was still only 13%, up 2% from previous voting years. That means white America played a significant role in getting Obama elected.

And that’s a good thing!

That tells me that race IS NOT the issue some would like us to believe. If you’ve read any of my previous posts you know my husband’s nickname for me is Pollyanna. I may be way off base with this. Maybe I am painting too rosy a picture of my fellow Americans. It seems to me that a vocal minority is creating an issue that doesn’t exist. Because whenever I heard people being interviewed about not wanting their children to hear Obama speak, not one brought up the color of his skin. And I don’t think I’m immune to hearing the truth about discrimination based on skin color. I sit here, raising two children with much darker skin than mine. We’ve heard our fair share of racist comments. But they are so far and few between.

We create our own reality. If we choose to live in judgement of others we are choosing to surround ourselves with criticism and blame. I’m not saying that there aren’t people out there that do not support our president based on the color of his skin. I just don’t believe that the good parents of our country, making a decision to protect their children from what they thought was going to be a speech centered on a political agenda, should be attacked. The full text of the speech wasn’t released until a day or two before. They didn’t have all of the facts – just some politically inspired tongue lashing in the media and school parking lots.

It should not be assumed that their decision was based purely on race.

Because we all know what happens when we assume.

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17 Comments

Filed under parenting, People, Soapbox

17 responses to “Making an Ass of U and Me

  1. Although I have seen enough objections/veiled threats against POTUS based on his race alone in the blogosphere (with 99% in the comment section – btw, comment threads are where to find the most interesting and scariest debates on the Interweb, imo), I agree with you that the objection to his speech to the school children centers around the fear mongering of potential brainwashing, subtle “indoctrination of socialism” to the impressionable young. Race is not the main driver for people’s unease, at least not consciously, not in this case.

    However, it has been argued by some media scholars that much of the HCR debate, consciously or unconsciously, aligns too close for comfort with the unspoken undertone of racial stereotypes: the unemployed, the welfare nation, the food stamp collectors, the drugged out, “those who cannot pull themselves up by the bootstraps”, and of course, the illegal immigrants. Taken as a whole, race inevitably adds a tinge of unease, to say the very least, to the topic, the way it does to most government spending distribution discussions in this country.

    The only budget discussion that seems to not involve race seems to be national defense… We all come together against a common enemy whoever that is. Actually, I take that back. If you think about it: a high percentage of our soldiers are people of color vis-a-vis the percentage of POC in the general population, and we should wonder why it is the way it is…

    I agree with you: One should not live with a chip on their shoulder, seeking offence, either existent or non-existent. I believe it is the protagonist in Tripmaster Monkey who said this, sensing his own downward spiral, “Shit, I have been made racist by the others prejudices against me” (paraphrasing here).

    I will confess: sometimes it is easier to blame it on race/ethnicity rather than come to grip with the fact that maybe, just maybe, somebody does not like you, not because of your race/ethnicity/nationality/gender/sexuality, but because they just do not like you because of YOU.

    • Thank you for your comment. You make some very good points. You reminded me of a quote a professor of my husband’s would say: “Racism takes away my right to detest the individual.”

      • SORRY for being a “comment hog”. I love your posts and I enjoy “talking” with you. Final comment, I promise. :-) I love the quote “Racism takes away my right to detest the individual.” It makes me think also.

        I should also make it clear that when I said maybe people don’t like “you” because of “you”, that “you” is referring to “me”… i.e. “Maybe people don’t like me because they don’t find me appealing as a person, and it has nothing to do with my race/ethnicity, etc.” I am afraid it came out wrong. I hope you were not offended.

  2. I love your post. I completely agree. It’s not about race, nor should it ever be. But since it’s our maiden voyage into having a leader who ISN’T white, I think we’re going to have some seriously weird assumptions/digressions/bumps-in-the-road. We are gonna make mistakes on both sides, for sure.

    I have, however, had a few interactions with people who refer to our president as “that man.” I don’t like that attitude any more than I like the seatmate on my daughter’s bus, who calls her “That Brown Girl.”

    I hope, as do you, that we can keep a clear eye on the real “issues” of this presidency and not marginilize the truly important things in shades of black or white…or brown.

  3. P.S.: Almost, if not AS disturbing as my child being taunted as “That Brown Girl,”–for the second year in a row–was her comment the other day: “Mama, why are the pale blonde kids so mean?”

    Shit. This country has a lot of work to do.

    • As a mom with two brown kids and one pale blonde kid I am appalled that your daughter is having to endure such torture. Two years in a row? Can you step in? I don’t know how old your daughter is – my daughter was 13 when she ran into “bus issues” and she wouldn’t let me intervene. She wanted to work it out herself and thank goodness it did.
      It’s amazing to me. Sometimes it seems we’ve made such great strides when it comes to discrimination. Other times, not so much.

      • Sorry for chiming in because this issue is dear and close to my heart: my kids are mixed, one looks more Asian than the other. Of course, the older one was called, “Hey, Japanese kid” (not that it matters, but we are not) in the school hallway a few times. I often wonder (and dread) that their life experiences would differ because how they are perceived by the outside world… You’d think in this day and age, racism still exists, but it does. One child at the kids’ school got into serious trouble when he told a Latina she was not allowed to play with them because of her brown skin. Sigh. I hope all the teachers took that unfortunate incident as a great educational moments for all the students at school. It’s a shame they could not educate the parents at the same time…

  4. Ooops. Should’d have said, “You wouldn’t think in this day and age that racism still exists openly in the school yard.”

    • No worries! No offense taken. And I understood exactly what you meant – in your first post and every one after! I also enjoy our dialogue, so no worries there, either.

      Your “Japanese kid” comment reminded me of something that happened to my daughter. When she was in kindergarten a little boy on the playground called her “Chinese.” Not in a derogatory way; in his eyes it was an observation. But she took great offense. She put her little hands on her hips, stamped her foot and said, “I am NOT Chinese. I’m Korean!” Then she came up to me and asked, “Mommy? What’s Korean?”

      • LOL.

        Ooops. Ok. I broke my promise. But this is therapeutic to be able to discuss this in the open. Sometimes we need to have a great sense of humor towards life that happens to come ouy way… My 6 yo would sometimes look at me and say, “Mommy, you know what? You ‘look’ Chinese today!” And I would look at him and say, “Do you know why? … Because I am!” ;-) (Of course, it always makes me wonder what he means by that… I swear I never wear red dragon-lady dress. Not around them at least… Bawhahaha!)

  5. I didn’t know “people” were making this a race issue. I stuck to the media coverage where the “issue” was Obama brainwashing kids to be liberals. To me, that was bad enough. For eight years, we were told disagreeing with our president about one issue or another was un-American. But now many of those same people are picking peanuts out of shit to find some reason to disagree with the president. Really? I feel like we’re all in high school, and our politcal parties are rival teams, and we always have to be “YEA! My side, and your side sucks.” Can’t we all grow up and see values and ideas, instead of teams?
    Um, did I go off in my own little fairy world?

    • I’ll go with you! I’ve told my children over the years with all of our presidents…It doesn’t matter if you voted for him or not. He is OUR president and we all support him because we’re all on the same team.

  6. Amy

    I know we discussed this a little on my blog, but I just wanted to weigh in on the racism issue. I don’t think that race was THE issue in the school speech debate, only that it played a part in the overall backlash against things that Obama does.

    I live in Texas, so I can only speak of what’s happening around me. Although your point that we, as a country, elected Barack Obama president is certainly true, he definitely did not win in my state. When I went to cast my vote, there was a long line on the Republican side of the room, but I walked right up to the Democrat table.

    Of course you don’t hear “people being interviewed” saying that race is an issue. People know better than to say it to reporters. It’s what they say behind closed doors, to their families, to some of their coworkers (but not all of them), the jokes that they forward via email.

    I’m not assuming that race is the only issue that parents had with his speech – not at all. But I assert that, whether they admit it, or sometimes even realize it, race plays a PART in SOME people’s opposition to Obama, and in some of the parent’s opposition to his school speech.

    I think that pretending that a problem doesn’t exist won’t make it go away. We have to confront race issues and bring them to the table in order to deal with them and hopefully move beyond, which is why I chose to bring it up at all in the first place. We aren’t all racist or rednecks in Texas. :-)

    On a lighter note, I’m enjoying reading your blog!

    • Amy – I DO hope you know I was not singling you out. Your post was one of the first that I read that even suggested race may be the issue (and very quietly at that, even.) It was after I read your post and found many others, and then comments on Facebook and Twitter that got me thinking. I was simply stunned that this squeaky wheel was getting greased by so many. <— and mostly in the comment sections, as submom pointed out.

      You're right – most people are savvy enough not to mention race while being interviewed. Many hide behind other issues rather than state their true feelings. I was just saying that with Obama getting the majority vote, surely race is largely a non-issue. And my "redneck" quote – an embarassingly true quote – came from Facebook. I realize everyone in Texas isn't a redneck OR a racist. I was floored that this comment even showed up. I hope it was clear that I was quoting other sources because those are certainly not MY views. I, too, come from a state that did not vote Obama. I also come from a state that receives its fair share of "backwards, crackers, redneck, dumb" southern jokes. I feel your pain!

      Your post got me thinking. Then when other comments started popping up everywhere I turned, I was annoyed and prompted to write. And I agree that putting our heads in the sand and pretending racism doesn't exist doesn't solve the problem. I am choosing to ignore the ignorant and move forward. I am part of a family that is mixed races. We run into our fair share of racism. But I don't have the energy to confront race issues and bring things to the table. I teach my children to respect other viewpoints but we don't have to agree and we certainly don't have to engage with racist individuals. I want them to lead by example and so far that has worked for our family.

      Thank you for visiting and for commenting. I really appreciate a healthy debate. But unfortunately, I think we are all in agreement here and preaching to the choir. The people that NEED to see what we're writing probably aren't reading. And if they are…they probably still don't get it.

      P.S. I enjoy reading your blog, too!

  7. eastkentuckygal

    My thing was with the parents who chose a government run public school system and then wouldn’t expect the leader of our government to address the children. And how in the world can one assume that this man would even be bringing up healthcare to school children… high schoolers, okay, but youngsters? Then, the White House provided a lesson plan. Teachers knew what the speech would say, isn’t part of sending your child to a public school about trusting the administration to protect and teach your children to your standards. It was all really silly in my opinion, and I’m tired of the Obama bashing. It all makes people look so ignorant whom I know not to be.

    • You make a very good point – one that I hadn’t considered regarding a government run school hosting a government official to speak. And you’re right. The Obama bashing is getting real old, real quick.

  8. GREAT post!

    The race card is outdated; people should come up with something else to complain about.

    -Jen

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