Daily Wisdom

March 26, 2008

Not A "Typical White Person"

By now, I'm sure that most of you have heard the remark by Barack Obama that his grandmother is "a typical white person", a suggestion that most whites react to black people with fear and suspicion. As I was watching "Special Report w/ Brit Hume" on FoxNews the other night, I listened to the panel react to Obama's comment. All three of the panelists specifically pointed out that they were not offended by the remark.

As for myself however, I WAS offended by the remark. Sure, the appearance of some black people in certain situations does frighten me... as does the appearance of some white people... as does the appearance of some Latinos... as does the appearance of some Muslim people... as does the appearance of ANYONE in certain situations. When people appear to be menacing, or drunk, or rowdy, or lurking, or stalking, or gang members... they can be "frightening". But that's besides the point.

What Obama actually said, was that the "typical white person" has reactions which are "bred" into them... "and that's just the nature of race in our society". What does he imply by such a statement -- that it's really the fault of white parents for not "breeding" their children any better?

And so what of blacks then? Are they "bred" better than whites? How does the "typical black person" react when he or she sees a white person? With suspicion? With fear? With disdain or animosity? Well, if any of those words apply, then it's a 2-way street and you have to start talking about the "typical person". The use of the adjective "white" or "black" becomes superfluous if both races are guilty of being suspicious of one another.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into this whole thing, but frankly... I find it annoying and irritating for several reasons. First of all, I can remember as early as kindergarten (circa 1957) that I was taught (by liberal teachers no doubt) that all men are created equal: yellow, brown, red and white. I specifically remember one of those "weekly reader" kind of publications for kids that had a picture of a globe on it with people of different colors encircling the globe and all holding hands (something along the lines of the picture here). Race relations was a big topic of discussion at the time.

As a kid, I watched TV with my parents (in "black and white" ironically), and I saw the pictures of fire hoses and dogs being used against blacks in the South. My parents were shocked. I was shocked. For me personally, it was not so much because of what whites were doing to blacks, but because of what people were doing to other people.

I remember watching Martin Luther King give his "I have a dream speech" on TV. I don't know if I saw the original speech in 1963 (I suspect I would have been outdoors playing at that time of day and that time of year). But I know for a fact that I recorded it onto a reel-to-reel audio tape a few years later when it was replayed on TV... perhaps on the fifth anniversary of the speech in 1968. (However, I DO remember watching Jack Ruby get shot on live TV in 1963.)

I remember my mother taking me into a deli in Elizabeth, NJ when I was 11 or 12 years old. We were new to the area and had no familiarity with the local establishments. She started to "freak out" shortly after we walked through the door. I couldn't understand what made her so nervous, so she explained to me that it was basically a black-only establishment. It frightened her apparently to be surrounded by so many black people. It didn't bother me in the slightest and I thought she was just being silly.

I remember the summer of 1967. My friends and I went to a Mets game at Shea Stadium. According to historical records, it must have been on July 13th. We were on the bus riding through Newark when at one stop, an injured black man got onto the bus holding a bloody rag to his head. We later learned that the Newark riots had started that day. It was a frightening situation, but only because you didn't normally see bloody people getting onto the bus. The riots didn't affect us much. The blacks destroyed their own neighborhoods more than anything else.

In college, I had a math professor who was black. He was one of those guys who has a chip on his shoulder. And he didn't teach very well either. He talked over and over about how rough it had been while he was going through school. He talked about the discrimination he had encountered, and I believed him. If not the first time, then by the tenth or eleventh time he told the story. On one particular test, I got the highest grade in the class... and it was a "D". As it turned out, I flunked the course (as did everyone else in the class, save perhaps one). I took the course again during the summer with another prof, and I passed with a "B+". And although I was annoyed that I had wasted my time, I never really held it against him. I figured he had it a whole lot worse than me.

And although my parents may have criticized black people on rare occasions, I must admit that I can never recall hearing them use the "N" word... EVER. My father took great pains to live up to the ideal of being "a Christian gentleman" -- a concept that was taught to him at a very early age. He is 85 years old now and still tries to live up to that standard (although my mom will tell you about every time he's failed).

As an adult, I have always tried to judge people by the "content of their character" (as Martin Luther King would say). I hired people based on their qualifications regardless of color, gender or ethnicity, etc. Although I managed only a small department with my previous employer of 17 years, I would like to think that, on a percentage basis anyway, I had the best EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) record of anyone in the company. Out of (16) people I hired, there were: (3) black men, (1) black woman, (1) Russian woman, (2) white women, (1) Philippino man, and (1) hearing-impaired man. The others were your standard, run-of-the-mill "white guys". I was not just a little pleased when the last black man I hired said of me, "He hasn't got a prejudiced bone in his body".

Therefore, I'm sorry but, I don't feel like I qualify as Obama's "typical white person" -- suspicious, fearful, and badly "bred". Perhaps I'm unique. I'm not so foolish as to think that there aren't any more white rascists in America, but I think that there are far fewer than some black ministers would like you to believe. Frankly, I'm tired of black people playing the race card. It's getting a bit old and stale in my opinion. As Juan Williams of NPR said recently (in reference to Michelle Obama)...

"there's no way that a black woman in America who is 44 years old can't be proud of the incredible progress this country has shown in terms of inclusiveness. We've got women on the Supreme Court now. We have a woman as Secretary of State, a black woman, in fact, if you haven't noticed. And the idea is — I believe she went to Princeton and then Harvard, and she was at Sidley & Austin, a major American law firm. That is just not possible in the previous generation."

And can you imagine if Hillary Clinton or John McCain had said something like what Obama said, but in regards to blacks? Sure, I can see it now: "That's how a typical black person reacts... you know... it's how they're bred". Such a statement would go uncontested for all of about 30 seconds. Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton would be ALL OVER that one! And yet, even as I type this, the Obama comments are fading into the background because it's OK for a black person to say it, but not a white person. It's OK for a black person to use the "N" word, but it's not OK for a white person to say it.

That's what is referred to as "free speech". I think I read that in the First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech... subject only to the Political Correctness limitations imposed by white people upon white people at the sole discretion of black people". But then I'm paraphrasing...

March 19, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Hat-tip to Heirborn Ranger...

March 09, 2008

Obama: The Uniter?

If you believe it's time to challenge the Washington politics that have let us down, and shut us out, and made us settle... If you believe it's time to restore a sense of mission to our politics and a sense of possibility to America... If you want a country that no longer treats itself as a collection of red states and blue states... If you want a president who can lead a UNITED States of America... Then I ask you to believe in this campaign. I ask you to believe in yourselves. I ask you to believe again in the dream that we call America.
--Barack Obama, 9/9/2007

I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than (Hillary) can.
--Barack Obama, 8/14/2007

These are difficult challenges, but part of the reason that I am in this race is that I believe I can unite the country and overcome these challenges.
--Barack Obama, March 2008

Obama likes to portray himself as a uniter, but is he really? What does his record suggest? Well, if you read last week's Op-Ed piece by David Ignatius in the Washington Post, it's pretty clear that Obama's record is "thin" on bridge-building. Ignatius asks...

If Obama truly intends to unite America across party lines and break the Washington logjam, then why has he shown so little interest or aptitude for the hard work of bipartisan government? ...The record is mixed, but it's fair to say that Obama has not shown much willingness to take risks or make enemies to try to restore a working center in Washington.
--David Ignatius, 3/2/2008

To go one step further, I decided to do a little research for myself. I started with the presumption that if Barack Obama is a "uniter" as he claims, then there must be some evidence for it in his voting record. The Washington Post maintains a database on the voting records of the members of Congress HERE. You can search all of Obama's votes by going HERE. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, there is a link for "Older Votes". If you keep following this link you will work your way back to January 2005, and end up with a complete picture of every vote Obama made since he first entered the US Senate.

But how can one readily judge from a voting record if a person is a "uniter" or "divider"? I had to make some assumptions, and therein lies the potential pitfall, but let's go on. I first assumed that a "uniter" would likely be a "middle-of-the-road" kind of person who shares views in common with members on both sides of the aisle. You can't unite people without finding common ground. He or she would probably be a moderate, who could work well with moderate Republicans and Democrats alike. A "divider" on the contrary, would likely be a very dogmatic, polarizing individual.

If that assumption is correct, then one would expect the voting record of a "uniter" to be at least somewhat balanced in terms of voting with or against one's own party. In a polarized political environment, a true center-of-the-road moderate would be expected to swing back and forth between issues favored by Republicans and issues favored by Democrats. A "uniter" might also be expected to vote for legislation favored by the other party as a reward for past support of their own legislation, or as political incentive towards obtaining support in the future. As a measure of such "balance", I decided to look at how often Obama voted with Republicans, versus how often he voted along party lines. The results do not portray the image of a "uniter" as defined herein.

From January 2005, until March 6, 2008, Barack Obama had 1126 opportunities to vote in the US Senate. Out of those 1126 opportunities, he did not vote on 201 occasions. Out of the 925 times he actually did vote, he did not vote along party lines only 28 times (or 3.0%). And out of those 28 times he did not side with his own party, at least 16 times he also did not side with the Republicans (ie, he voted against the majority of BOTH parties). This leaves only 12 votes out of 925 (1.3%) where he sided with Republicans. Not the kind of numbers you might expect from someone who claims to be a "uniter".

I did not work up the numbers for Hillary, since she makes no particular claim to be a "uniter". Nevertheless, I did something of a comparison for John McCain. I did not go through every single vote the way I did with Obama, but I am relying on some published figures and data (also from the Washington Post). For the same time period (January 2005 - March 6, 2008), John McCain also had 1126 opportunities to vote in the US Senate. Out of those 1126 opportunities, he did not vote on 333 occasions. Out of the 793 times he actually did vote, he did not vote along party lines 145 times (or 18.3%). And out of those 145 times he did not side with his own party, 49 times he also did not side with the Democrats (ie, he voted against the majority of BOTH parties). This leaves 96 votes out of 793 (12.1%) where he sided with Democrats. By comparison percentage-wise, John McCain is 9.3 times more likely to be a "uniter" than Barack Obama using these assumptions and criteria.

Barack Obama:
- Total Opportunities to Vote = 1126 times.
- Did Not Vote = 201 times (17.85%)
- Actually Voted = 925 times (82.15%)
- Voted Against Dems = 28 times (3.0% of 925)
- Voted Against BOTH parties = 16 times (1.73% of 925)
- Voted With Republicans = 12 times (1.3% of 925)

John McCain:
- Total Opportunities to vote = 1126
- Did Not Vote = 333 times (29.57%)
- Actually Voted = 793 (70.43%)
- Voted Against GOP = 145 times (18.28% of 793)
- Voted Against BOTH parties = 49 times (6.18% of 793)
- Voted with Democrats 96 times (12.1% of 793)

The Bottom Line:
On a percentage basis of votes cast, John McCain is 9.3 times more likely to "reach across the aisle" and equally more likely to be a "uniter" than Barack Obama.