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...