Excuse me if I break character for a minute. Normally the Armada stands for the general eradication of all humans, but lately there is something that has been weighing on my mind; the current state of race relations in America. I know, not the normal light-heartedness you have come to expect from this blog, but a topic I wish to address nonetheless. There have been several issues raised recently in the media, spurred by the ever vigilant Fox News. The issues garnering attention right now pertain to several videos suspiciously posted by conservative bloggers. The first one to catch the ire of the Glenn Becks and Bill O’Reillys are of a couple of supposedly “New Black Panther Party” members (the emphasis on the NEW) standing in front of a primarily black voting station in Philadelphia. A member of the local John McCain campaign staff walks up with a camera and begins to ask the two men what they are doing. The kid holding the camera is audibly nervous as he begins to prod the two men as to “what’s going on.” Now at this instant it becomes about the man holding a billy club or night stick, and less about why he’s actually there. The two men are calm; they make no hostile movements to anyone, and one man states clearly that they are there as “security.” Now, one may ask why two unofficial black men are posing as security at a polling station in the hood in Philadelphia. But then one would have to be white not to understand the fear – both rational and irrational – of African Americans who were in fact afraid to go and vote for President Obama. There is (of course) more to this story than a simple college kid working for the Republican candidate for president questioning members of an off-off-shoot of the “radical” Black Panther Party. The controversy came when charges were filed against the men for voter intimidation, resulting in the men being found not guilty and charges being thrown that the Obama administration is responsible. Even though it was shown in court on record that there was absolutely no evidence of voter intimidation!
This has prompted all the talking heads on the right to scream “I told ya so!” about the President of the United State’s “supposed racism” to one half of his own blood line! A charge those on the right have been screaming to the heavens since the Democratic Primaries. The game plan of the Republican playbook has been to exploit the racial tension that has always existed in America and paint the President as socialist/communist, intent on giving out reparations and avenging all the oppressed brown people in this country. Through their mouth piece Fox News, they have goaded the most gullible and naive of the population to rise up as some pseudo-Tea Party to espouse the racist and ignorant views the actual Republican Party is too politically suave to utter themselves. They have been crying that the election of the first half-black president meant that African-Americans across the country would now finally feel like they were equal. They are fearful that their racism will be returned to them. What they lacked, however, was any credible evidence to the fact. Obama himself has made no overt measures to help any one race or uplift the black populace as a whole. There has been no talk of racism. Even now he remains very tight-lipped about his experience as being the first anything. He has tried, as he did during his campaign, to remain racially neutral. He cow-towed to right-wing critics over the controversy of his pastor, he shirked any debate when Billy Clinton showed that he was indeed from Arkansas. Yet he cannot escape the accusations of racism.
In the current news cycle, a right-wing blogger somehow got ahold of a tape of a NAACP meeting wherein a Georgia USDA mid-level official, Shirley Sherrod, told a story of her early days in the USDA where she had to confront her own racism. A conservative blogger edited the tape to make it appear that she was making racist remarks. Fox got wind of it, turned it into reflection on Obama, and the USDA called for Sherrod’s resignation in less than a day. Then Fox tried to call out other news media outlets for not reporting on Obama’s obvious racism based on these two incidents. That of course was their undoing. After a brief investigation by anyone with access to Google, it was easily revealed that both of these events were manufactured and blown completely out of proportion by the right-wing pundits who are looking for any and every reason to find fault in Obama and label him as evil and bad for the country. Their extreme vitriol and animosity for the president has been evident since before the election even ended. They have targeted these small, rag-tag, would-be Panthers and this honest woman for political gain, while stoking the ire of armchair racists from coast to coast. Thankfully the USDA is reviewing their decision in light of the new facts, and there are beginning to be rumblings from conservative lawyers that are poking holes in the Black Panther case. The seeds have been sown though: those that wish to believe that the Obama administration is responsible for reverse racism, they will believe it regardless of the facts.
The real problem is the racism that has become so prevalent since the election. Spurred on by the anonymity of the internet; where it is easy for people to post their bigoted views in online threads and Youtube comments. Sounding like mini-Rush Limbaugh’s, bloggers vent their hatred and reveal their fears through irrational rants against the Obama administration. I have read endless amounts of racist comments on everything from news sites to personal blogs espousing the kind of mind-boggling racism that you would expect from old people in the 1950s! It blows my mind that in 2010 there are still so many people walking around with these views. It seems for as many advancements we have made to bring humans together regardless of race or religion, we have made just as many if not more steps backwards. It begs the question how many people are spreading their racist beliefs to their children. All of these people online using the word “nigger” and talking about black people as monkeys and less than human cannot be leftover from pre-civil rights days. Yet their views and opinions are 50 years behind the times. I know for a fact that there are a large amount of children under the age of 18 who are spewing these feelings online. I read it all the time on more sites than I can count. It was expected when President Obama was elected that there would be some backlash from the bigots, and bring a few out of the woodwork that had been silent during the Bush years, but the sheer amount of bigotry has been staggering to my eyes.
I have been on this planet for over 30 years. I grew up an African-American in the South. I have lived all over the country and experienced racism on every level, including from other African-Americans. Never before have I felt the racial tension in this country so high. It seems to be at a boiling point due to the president’s election. Fox News barely acknowledges his presidency, referring to him only by his name whereas normally any president would be referred to by his title, first and foremost. They still refer to Bill Clinton as “President Clinton,” yet find it almost impossible to say “President Obama.” When they do, they spit it out with such obvious disdain that to call it sarcasm would be an injustice on its own. It’s not just online and on television where I see this blatant prejudice either. When I walk the streets, if I pass a single non-black woman she tries her best to avoid eye contact as she clutches her purse, as if I’m going to reach out and rape her in broad daylight on a busy public street. Little old ladies cower when I stand behind them waiting for the cross light to change. Worst of all, I live in supposedly liberal San Francisco. I can only imagine what I would be experiencing across the rest of the country. As scarce as jobs are to come by now, this new breed of racial intolerance is especially damaging to those of us with darker pigment. These current allegations of reverse racism do nothing but fan the flames. Not saying that African-Americans do not harbor their own racist feelings – lord knows they do. Each and every person on this planet harbors their own special misconceptions and beliefs about races to which they do not belong. It is essential though that we understand that you are all humans, that no matter what pigmentation your skin has, underneath, and at the end of the day – human beings are all alike. The foolish notion that somehow the hue of our skin tone makes us somehow different is a fallacy created by those who seek to control and hold down a populace. What better way to keep mankind from advancing than to keep them pitted at each other’s throats, arguing over nuances? Yet most fail to see this. Even those that consider themselves progressives and forward thinkers limit themselves by entertaining such notions. That’s why it was so sad to see MSNBC and CNN take Fox’s bait by reporting on these stories, giving them even more life and power to influence a public that is already seething with too much racial animosity. I wish I could broadcast my views and experiences to a wider audience so as to try and counter what is happening. Yet I feel it may already be too late.
The ignorance that is spreading like a cancer across this generation is moving with such ferocity that I feel it will get far worse before it gets better. Right here near my own home this past weekend, a man was on his way to “ignite a revolution” by killing members of the ACLU and the Tide Foundation. He was stopped and entered a shoot-out with California Highway Patrol just inside of Oakland. In the Youtube video of the event – taken by innocent bystanders who were in their home and heard the gunshots – the comment thread is filled with racist slurs and calls to action, believing the act was perpetrated by black citizens, before the facts were even in. And once they were made aware of what happened, they continued to state that blacks were violent animals deserving of extermination. It is mind-boggling that people who feel this way are so connected. One would assume that those who hold these beliefs are hillbillies living in the Appalachian woods or off in Alaska somewhere where internet access is nonexistent. Yet these comments are made by literate, computer savvy individuals who are all around us. They are sly enough not to speak up in public, they may be your neighbor, your co-worker, or even you yourself, and when alone hidden behind a computer screen, feel free to voice their hate.
I thought we were moving beyond that. I thought we were moving into a more enlightened portion of human history where we were beginning to string together our common ancestry and realize that all blood is red. Interracial relationships were on the rise, and more and more little mixed kids were springing up each day. It was looking as if the horrible racial history of this country was starting to be fixed, and the racial divide healed. For a brief moment, I almost felt like identifying with the human race again. Then over the last year I have been reminded repeatedly that humans can never change, and no matter how far we advance socially and technologically, the fear of the unknown will always predominate and rule over our lives. That’s all it is really: we fear what we do not understand. Whites fear and hate blacks because they see them as the “other.” They see them only as violent, unintelligent stereotypes because that is what is shown to them in the news and in the movies. The stereotypes are reinforced not only to whites but to young, impressionable black youths, who in turn reflect those stereotypes and perpetuate the cycle. Ignorance breeds ignorance on both sides of the fence. And Blacks take this resentment and turn it into their own brand of bigotry and the divide grows again. Will it be another 50 years before we can heal this wound? I hope not. I would like to live in a world where an asshole is an asshole no matter what complexion they are. When Barack Obama was elected president, I made a modest proposal; that we each try to conceive our own Obama, a race-less child above the stereotypes with no regard for the petty divisions of the past. Not that the president is actually the epitome of that ideal, but he is a symbol that we can place that ideal on. It is, after all, why he won the Nobel Peace Prize just for being himself. Each and every one of us should make a vow not to conceive anymore children with anyone whose skin tone resembles our own. We should breed out racism by combing pigments to create a homogeneous beige race. Of course that’s just me being silly. In reality, even if that happened, the beige children would form groups based on eye color or form hate groups based on height or age or geography. It seems to be only human nature to hate, leaving the complete and total annihilation of humankind as the only true solution to ending these foolish biases.