More on Race in America…

I had an interesting weekend and I haven’t posted about it yet because part of it was extremely frustrating and disappointing, part was great, and part was infuriating and inexcusable.  The infuriating and inexcusable part deals with racial issues I encountered on my weekend trip to Georgia (I would say Atlanta, but Atlanta was fine.  The rest was not.) I try not to write about these things when I’m as angry as I was because I don’t want to fuel racial tension.  I do, however, want to express myself honestly and I will as I ramble on.

I need to go back a week to September 20, 2007 before I continue.  While the Jena 6 fiasco is probably the most blogged about topic of all time, I have been quite disappointed with the shoddy media coverage of the issue.  I won’t engage in the debate about whether or not this is the ideal crime to be the political “poster child” for unequal protections and treatment of blacks in the justice system, but I will insist that it is important and telling.  It can not be ignored.  I am so proud of Michael Baisden for calling the nation’s attention to the issue and unifying the black community the way he has.

With that said, I am only 34. I was not born or thought of when the Civil Right’s movement in this country was in its heyday. I’ve acquired images and memories of important moments of that time by watching black and white media clips, talking about them in school, writing reports about my black heroes each February, listening to my mom’s stories of marching behind King’s casket and of a time when blacks couldn’t go this place or that place.  I have never actually been a part of anything that I would consider a cohesive movement of blacks and allies in pursuit of justice and equality, until last Thursday.  I was so moved by the numbers of families I saw leaving for work and school, dressed completely in black.  I saw teenagers questioning there peers about why they were not wearing black.  I shared smiles and nods that underscored the solidarity I felt with so many people that day.  

I was attending a conference on ending sexual violence in communities of color.  One of the performers apologized for not wearing black, as he was not able to go home to change (presumably from the night before) before his performance.  No one thought twice about him not wearing black, but I appreciated his desire to be part of the collective.  I’ve never experienced solidarity like that in my lifetime (though the experience surely pales in comparison to, say, the March on Washington).  It meant a lot to me hear about non-black allies who also wore black to make a statement that injustice is injustice and that this fight is not only a black fight, it’s an American fight.


Fast forward to this weekend – Cliff’s Notes style:

Who: Lex and a Friend

What: SouthTube (YouTuber meet-up)

Where: Marrietta, GA (which is so NOT Atlanta – for the record)

Why (are you so upset):  a statement, in my and friend’s presence, to a man in drag about his choice to “go Puerto Rican” by not shaving his legs.

I am very uncomfortable in a situation in which people feel they can make racists statements around me like it’s ok.  I don’t care that the statement wasn’t directed at me.  It was wrong.  I doesn’t matter one bit that I love Puerto Ricans and in so many ways consider them “my” people as well as any Caribbean with whom black Americans share a very similar history (slavery, colonialism, miscegenation).  The point is that that was wrong, as wrong as a racist statement about whites would have been.  It made me angry and since I was a guest, I kept my mouth shut, to avoid creating a scene for my friend, and went to my room for the rest of the evening. This was at 6:30pm.


And fast forward to today.  I’m not really shocked by this nonsense.  But I’m really tired of it.  Can people stop being so stupid?  There are (and this article proves it) ignorant people in every racial and ethnic group and every social class.  I’m not surprised when I see loud, white people with no shoes on in a restaurant being trashy any more than Mr. O’Reilly should be for seeing nicely dressed blacks in a classy black-owned restaurant.  I’m so disappointed in humanity today.  Why the hell can’t we just grow up and get past this dumb shit?!?!

I won’t bury my head in the sand and be silent about it however.  It will never go away if we shut up about it.  I think that’s what my generation is most guilty of.  We didn’t take the torch from our parents and now we must.  Ignorance is abounding.  People are choosing to be ignorant and racist.  I guess the ones who want to be always will be, but the ones who pretend to have half a clue need to sharpen their diversity skills or shut the fuck up and stop speaking in public.  I’m so tired of this bullshit.

This reminds me of something my mom used to say, “Lexi you are too intelligent to use such ugly words. You are smart enough to find better words to express what you are feeling.” Well, mom, I am smart enough to know that sometimes fuck and bullshit just say it best!!  

Here’s the article.  Click the link at the end for the full story if you give damn.

What Bill O’Reilly Just Learned About Black People  By Rory O’Connor. Posted September 26, 2007
Here’s a look at O’Reilly’s latest racial gaffe from his eye-opening visit to Harlem, plus the “lowlights” of his thoughts on race over the last few years.

If he weren’t such a ridiculous, pathetic oaf, I’d invite Bill O’Reilly up to my ‘hood for a little white-on-white bonding, re-education and diversity training — if he weren’t afraid to set foot in it! It would obviously surprise, and perhaps even frighten the Man Who Wouldn’t Shut Up, to learn that I now live in Harlem — along with many other white people, not to mention a wide and growing assortment of Asians, Hispanics, Arabs, African Americans and all the rest of what makes Manhattan such a vibrant, interesting and exciting place to live and work.

Apparently O’Reilly, trapped back in time as well as in his suburban cocoon and Fox bunker, hasn’t noticed any of the ongoing changes in Harlem — or for that matter the rest of America — that have taken place since he and I attended the same very Catholic, very strict and very segregated college prep school in lily-white Long Island back in the ’60s. Back then there was only one skinny little black kid in the class — and he was regularly brutalized by the hulking football players. Given that racist background — and given the further fact that he obviously hasn’t progressed much since then — it comes as no surprise that O’Reilly recently expressed his surprise that “there was no difference” between Sylvia’s, a world-famous Harlem restaurant, and other restaurants in New York.

“I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship,” the amazed talkmeister told his national audience of millions.This latest in a depressingly long series of O’Reilly racial dustups began last week on his syndicated radio program, while he was discussing a recent dinner he had enjoyed at Sylvia’s with his new pal Al Sharpton. O’Reilly told his audience he “had a great time, and all the people up there are tremendously respectful.” (For Bill, it’s somehow always all about him!) He added, “I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship.”

Later, while talking with Fox News contributor (and National Public Radio senior correspondent) Juan Williams, O’Reilly further exposed his cosseted ignorance, saying, “There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, ‘MF-er, I want more iced tea.’ You know, I mean, everybody was — it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn’t any kind of craziness at all.”

Just imagine — those crazy MF-ers in Harlem “ordering and having fun” just like they do in Italian restaurants in the “all-white” suburbs that O’Reilly STILL inhabits! What will they think of next — donning leisure suits? (Frankly, the only crazy people I’ve ever heard yelling obscenities in New York restaurants were O’Reilly’s Fox fellow travelers screaming for more booze in Langan’s, the Irish pub they hang out in near their Sixth Avenue headquarters.)

The racist ranter then compounded his idiocy by noting, “I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They’re getting away from the Sharptons and the Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They’re just trying to figure it out. ‘Look, I can make it. If I work hard and get educated, I can make it.'”As noted above, this embarrassing outburst is far from the first time O’Reilly has made provocative statements about race. (See Media Matters for America for documentation.)But here are a few past lowlights:

·                     During the Feb. 5 edition of Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” in a conversation about President Bush’s description of Barack Obama as “articulate,” O’Reilly told a Temple University professor, “Instead of black and white Americans coming together, white Americans are terrified. They’re terrified. Now we can’t even say you’re articulate? We can’t even give you guys compliments because they may be taken as condescension?” ·                     On the Aug. 16, 2006, edition of “The O’Reilly Factor,” O’Reilly called for “profiling of Muslims” at airports, arguing that detaining all “Muslims between the ages of 16 and 45” for questioning “isn’t racial profiling,” but “criminal profiling.”

·                     In a Feb. 27, 2006, conversation with a caller about the disproportionately few jobs and contracts that have gone to locals in the rebuilding of New Orleans, O’Reilly said: “[T]he homies, you know … I mean, they’re just not going to get the job.”  Read the whole article>>

I know I’ve said nothing new on the topic. I just needed to get that off my chest.

Sound off!!


6 thoughts on “More on Race in America…

  1. I do remember the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s. I was there and involved.

    The one thing that was never completely overcome was the colonialist attitudes of the privileged. (Most people don’t realize that most of the radical movements of that time were spawned in colleges where it can be safely assumed that 1) they could afford college and 2) they had the time available to get involved in causes.

    Every now and then, one of those O’Reilly statements would come through and everyone would grin and silently pat each other on the backs for their noblesse oblige.

    None of this surprises me. I attribute the race problems now (and then) to the same cause: capitalism and class.

    I’m not nearly as eloquent on the topic as some… and a book I found particularly helpful was “Women, Race and Class” by Angela Davis. (Yes, the book’s been around for a while but the issues haven’t changed. They’re just packaged differently now.) Some of Angela Davis’ views set my teeth on edge and her membership in the CPUSA affected her credibility on a few levels but her historical analysis of race in America was spot on.

    I agree with you in the broadest sense. I wish people would just get over being stupid.. .but as long as the prevailing social ethic is predatory capitalism, it ain’t gonna happen.

    Just my two baht 🙂



  2. I understand O’Reilly, I dont agree with him, but I understand him. I also was involved in the 60’s racial equality movement, as a liberal white kid, me and a bunch of kids from my high school, an affluent community north of NYC, equally split between jewish and protestant/catholics, we joined in the SNCC voter registration drive in time for the 68 elections, and we busted our asses going through black parts of White Plains NY. We were greeted like we were wearing white robes. Had we not had a pair of black men from the SNCC we would have probably been set upon. But we plodded on, and yet when the election was held, the numbers of voters from predominately black parts of White Plains were almost as low as they were prior to the registration drives. And not much has changed since then.

    Now living in Texas, soon to be Tejas, I am seeing the rise in Hispanic activism, far exceeding what I had seen in those black communities decades ago. I cannot fathom bigotry, its not a yoke I have had to wear. It was not my lot in life, yet I tried to alter its effects when I could. But I can not say I understand it, can identify with it or can measure it. I know its there, but I do not know how to remedy it. I work at a large federal govt agency, and this office has a more ethnic, religious, race, nationality diverse workforce than most. My boss is a Muslim, I have co-workers in my division that include a woman from Nigeria, an Egyptian, a man from Taiwan, two Hispanics and a few bubbas. But I also see subtle forms of segregation here, in who goes to lunch with each other, what they talk about etc.

    Lately I have heard some odd phrases like black voters questioning Barrack Obama as not being “black” enough.

    Like what the F is with that. Not black enough. Why would they say that, is it perhaps because they see society as black and white, and they see in him a black man trying to live in a white one? I guess I see perhaps a cracking of the American fabric, similar to the divide blacks have always felt/seen, and now as larger amounts of Hispanics are gaining political power, a segregation of culture and language in the tree predominate races/cultures.

    Ou vey!

  3. People will say racist things around you as long as you let it go. If you object every time, however, you’ll build a reputation for intolerance for bullshit. (I love your Shakespearean aside to your mom regarding “cursing.”) Reputation established, the oral tradition will come alive as people warn others about you. As my mother always said, Créate fama y échate a dormir. It’s scary to be the lone voice of reason, but it should be unacceptable that there be no voice. Where you lead, others will follow.

    The goal is for everyone to object every time, to shut down or change bigoted attitudes. This is why I hate it when people claim to be offended because they members of some group that suffers discrimination. That statement apologizes and segregates, neither of which are necessary or appropriate when dealing with bullshit. What’s offensive should be offensive to all of us.

    Had I not read the sexual harassment charges against O’Reilly (at The Smoking Gun), I would have thought him an actor. It’s dfficult to believe what he says isn’t just bait hyped for ratings. Now, I think he has purposefully isolated himself and tried to make flesh, at least professionally, his fantasy world.

  4. Pingback: Good Morning! or I’m Morphing into My Mother…whichever « On Second Thought…

  5. O’Reilly’s remarks were incredibly ignorant and condescending. It’s hard to believe that a person with his exposure could be so unsophisticated as to make such ludicrous assumptions about an entire race of his fellow humans.

    It’s shocking that there is still so much racism in America, and that many who practice it seem unaware that they are racists.

    It makes me fear for the future of our country if we can’t get this issue right after all these years.

    My father told me the exact same thing your mother told you about profanity, but sometimes, nothing else will do.

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