May I Run A Few Questions by You?

Remember me telling you about the PBS special, Race 2012? Well, it’s that time and every Tuesday, up until election day, is when I’ll publish an article relating to the topic of race and politics. Do make sure you tune in to the program, which will be aired on October 16th. I’ll keep you posted, of course but I also want you to be proactive, folks. That’s critical in these uncertain times. So, check your local listing, folks and look for Race 2012: A Conversation About Race & Politics in America.

Of course, the purpose of this is to have a forum for open and honest dialogue and since we’re all grown folk around here, we can do that, right? I thought so.

Monica, of Monica’s Tangled Web, invited me. Just so you know I’m not making this up. Okay? The Race 2012 Blogging Project Begins is the proof that I’m not. Now…If you’d so kindly oblige me, I have a few questions…

“Race in America” Watercolor on paper. Copyright 2012 Totsymae/

Are you voting this year? You most certainly will? May I ask you where we are with race relations in America? Are we getting better? What makes you think so? How do you think folks who don’t look like you feel about where we are on this matter? Do you ever empathize on that? What makes them feel that way? You think we’re getting better ’cause we’ve got an African American president? What kind of president did you say you want?  Does your president have to look like you or can he look like me? Does it matter how he looks at all? Are you sure? How much of a factor has race played into the political game in the last four years?  Do you feel as if your president represents you regardless of color? Can you expound on why you feel that way? Ever have conversations about race among friends and family? Would you care to share snippets of those  conversations? So, you think not talking about race makes it all better? How does that happen? Has it been working for you? Why do you think folk want to have this conversation? We need to just move on? Okay. If I may ask a handful of other questions, can I ask you what folks mean when they say we want to take our country back? Why are they so angry when they say that? Do you feel the same way? Do you think there’s a racial divide in America? You don’t see one? Do your friends who don’t look like you see one? You just want us all to get along? How can we get along if we don’t talk?

Here are a few other participants in the Race 2012 blogging campaign:

Monica’s Tangled Web

She Writes

Somer Empress

Destination Unknown

62 thoughts on “May I Run A Few Questions by You?

    • Is that really a joke or are whites uncomfortable with being the minority there? And I really don’t like the word “minority” when referencing race but for the sake of the 52% and what the feeling is there among whites, I’ll insert the term to address the topic until I can think of something more appropriate. Anyhow, I wonder what the feelings really are behind the joke or whether whites there have adjusted their thinking to being outnumbered there. A few years ago, I learned how the demographics would change in America and Miami Dade County appears to be a microcosm of that. I just wonder how I would feel if I were white and living there.


      • Well I guess joke is a poor term but things certainly have reversed which is a boon to fairness and equality. Maybe twist is better. Minority is the term used for all non white subgroups which are actually the majority here. Since my family is mixed race I really don’t see things in terms of race but in Miami Dade people vote along racial and ethnic lines at the expense of choosing perhaps the most qualified. It determines who gets a job as well. Race, cronyism and nepotism is the rule here and this is not a meritocracy. It is encouraging that teens and young people here are not much affected or driven by racial considerations. More concerned about how the Dolphins will do this season, jobs, education, jeans, pizza and music. Things that connect us and are common denominators. Young people have a real sense of fairness and that is the engine that drives that subset’s attitudes which is great for everyone.

        “I just wonder how I would feel if I were white and living there.” I cannot speak for any group but it is not unreasonable to conclude that whites are pretty much out of the loop, economically and politically. I don’t feel oppressed because my self identity is not based on race, sex, or ethnic origin.I don’t understand people that do. I am just Carl, a retired teacher whose hobby is cartoons. As I am second generation I celebrate foreign born that have managed to get here. But I lament the fact that there is not much appreciation for Memorial Day or Veterans Day or “American” things. Pat Buchanan would agree but who are any of us to say what American means as it means different things to different people and they are all legitimate. It also means the same thing to many people as well.

        A real positive is that when the hurricane hits Miami Dade is the most united place in the world.


    • Thanks, Twin. Hope you’re well. You’re more than welcome to contribute to the conversation. I’ll hop over to visit you in a bit. By the way, I met some of your fellow Chicagoans over the weekend. Not under the best of circumstances but good folk and I enjoyed them.


  1. I do feel that there’s still a racial divide here, but I believe it’s getting smaller. It seems to me that younger people are more likely to have friends who don’t look like them and it’s my hope that this trend will continue and grow. I’ve had a few conversations about race with friends who don’t look like me and I’ve felt that we understand one another better and are closer after those conversations.

    Regarding our president… I absolutely feel that he represents me. He cares about the things I care about and he’s working toward goals that are important to me. When people say they want to take the country back, it infuriates me because they would be taking it back from me and others who believe the things I do. It’s my country, too, not just theirs, and obviously, enough people agree with me to have voted Obama into office. I hope he will be able to continue the work he’s doing.


    • I have to agree that the younger generation is a lot more open to relationships across cultural lines. I can see that in my children. I don’t have race talks with others who are not African American so much as I used to, which I must change. We’ve come a long way but I also wonder why it becomes such a pressing issue every few years. And that typically happens when we’re inspired to do so by what’s happened in the media.


  2. So many important questions, Totsy. Yes, I’m voting — you could not keep me away. Where are we with race relations? I’m wishing that the volume of the racism was an indication that it was in its death throes, but somehow I doubt it. There will always be haters. But progress has been made, and I remain hopeful. Why?

    I grew up in a lily-white family in a lily-white town. I can remember being at a park concession stand in Connecticut with my great Aunt Allie, who was an incredibly sweet woman. I was about 4. She told me not to order a hot dog because there was a “colored man” cooking them. I recall being confused at why that mattered, and ordering a hot dog anyway. Now I live in a multi-cultural family — my husband and I adopted a baby of Hispanic descent (he’s now 21), and I have an African-American nephew and and Indian-American (as opposed to Native American) niece, both by marriage. Their offspring are beautiful and brilliant. They are what gives me the most hope.


    • I was telling my sister the other day how color struck we are as Americans. And having traveled to a few places, I know that’s not limited to our shores. It’s an issue within and outside of different racial groups. I believe there are more folk who embrace cultural diversity than those who don’t. I have hope as well. I’m also realist who has idealistic ways of thinking. So, if for no other reason, let’s hope for our children.


  3. Right now, I feel a bigger gender gap than racial gap with most people. Most people my age and younger have grown up either multi-racial themselves, or with families who included “others,” people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds. So, we’ve come to see that just because somebody wears a different skin color, we can still have much in common. Or just because we DO share skin color, we can still be polar opposites. I relate much more closely to Michelle Obama than I do to Ann Romney or (good grief) Phyllis Schlafly who’s still out there flapping her mouth.

    Still, too many racists out there. I remember it bugged me a bit, four years ago when one older African-American woman confessed on camera that as far as policies went, she thought Hilary Clinton would be better for the country, but she planned to vote for Obama in the primaries because she wanted to see his little girls in the White House. And if I had a dollar for every white racist who feels, secretly or not, that the White House has been “defiled” by those same little girls and their parents, I’d never have to work another day in my life.

    Mostly, I think racism has gone underground, there are code words that racists use that aren’t OVERT, but they still send the same message. Although the whole Scott Brown attack on Elizabeth Warren, “She said she was Native American and she’s not… LOOK at her” blows me away. That’s pretty upfront racism.

    I think we’re better off with President Barack Obama because he is a very smart, hardworking man, who cares about people from all economic levels, which has little to do with his race (though they say his father, as well as his mother, was highly intelligent). I have high hopes for his second term.


    • Racism is very much on the low-low because we must be politically correct. There are positives and negatives to that, however. While there have been strides in race relations, we keep coming back to this same conversation every few years and because an African American is in office has brought us to that again. We see how pervasive race and the ism of it is. It [racism] continues to be an institutionalized system that disenfranchises folk of color.

      While Ann Coutler believes that civil rights is for African Americans, I, along with a great number of folks feel that it’s for everyone, so I don’t particularly go with a feminist perspective per se. It’s enough to be African American, to be honest.


  4. Of course we are going to vote!

    Now, down to brass tacks. I live in a bubble. This is a very weird little bubble called the San Francisco Bay Area. We have a rich diverse culture. We see inter-racial marriages and unions everywhere. It does not make us turn our heads ever. We have immigrants from everyplace in the world. Are there racial bigots here? Sure there are, but most of them keep their mouths shut.

    We had a party about a year ago. It was an outdoor thing with quite a few people. Like most of our parties, we have an interesting mix of people. Most folks can immediately tell that our get togethers are not much like the Republican party conventions. The subject of Arizona’s laws about “show your papers” came up as a topic. Both Alex and I are horrified that his home state would enact such a discriminatory law. (Neither of us believe the police are looking for an illegal blond Canadian). The discussion became rather intense with phrases like “secure our borders” and “driving while Hispanic” being thrown around. Alex had been drinking a bit that afternoon. All at once he stood up and said to the party at large “I think you all should leave and just go back to where ever you came from”. He walked away after making this odd statement. People didn’t know if he was being funny or being honest. I know Alex well enough to know he was being both.

    Alex is Navajo. I am Mexican American. We both have a real issue with racism. I wish I could say things are “better” now that we have a black man in the white house, but I fear in a way it’s brought a lot of the ugly stuff to light. I’ve never seen a president “dis-respected” as much I have seen with Obama. I’m horrified and disgusted that this ugliness still is alive and well in America.


    • It’s interesting ’cause back in the day, and it may still be said now although I don’t hear it anymore, but whites used to tell blacks to go back where they came from. It’s not like it was volunteerism that got us here. I so seldom hear Native Americans telling their stories and that’s my fault for not being proactive in making it my business to do so. Now that we’re having this conversation makes it an agenda for me.

      I’m really not all that surprised that racism has come into play during Obama’s presidency. D.C. has formed a close knit of good ole boys and Obama’s an outsider who’s also a man of color. Folks who through in general aren’t surprised really. Showing papers and driving while Hispanic/Black…well, time hasn’t changed all that much, as you say.


  5. I was a college student in Greensboro, NC, when the famous cafeteria sit-in happened. We protested in front of our off-campus theater to allow black students (all girl school) to sit in the general theater seats … out of the balcony. That’s how old I am. I lived the civil rights movement up close.
    Racial discrimination and inequity are worse, in many ways, today than in the Sixties.
    I am going to say what whites won’t say: Barack Obama’s presidency is considered illegitimate because he is a black man … an “other” of exotic background and, therefore, dangerous. Conservatives whites are terrified of him. Fear breeds hate. They hate him because he is a black Democrat. Remember the Time Magazine cover depiction of the First Couple as “Black Panther” style radicals? Remember the association with radicals charge? The continuing belief among a huge percentage of whites that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim, a socialist, intent on subverting the freedom of all Americans?

    The conversation we’re supposed to be having is not going to happen because racism is so deeply entrenched that it is a part of the White DNA. Let me tell you a story:

    When I was a social worker for the state licensing division for foster care homes in NC forty years ago, I sat behind a black colleague of about my own age. I suspected that she was a racist in her heart. She thought I was too, and I knew it. Our relationship was a fragile one. One day our black, male, gay supervisor asked me to take orders for pens. I asked her if she needed any. She did. Then I blurted out, “black or white?”. Not black or blue. Yes, black or white. In that instant, I confirmed for her the very suspicion she harbored of my own racism. All I could think of was “Oh, shit!” My supervisor laughed at me from that day until the very day he died about it. I’m positive that he told the story to everybody he knew! Neither she nor I found it remotely humorous.

    Neither of us was a bad person. But each of us felt that the other did not understand. We questioned each others belief systems and motivations. I do not think the situation has improved much since that time. I knew that I had not examined my own stereotypical ideas about blacks. I only discovered that I still unconsciously held those ideas only when I heard them issue forth from my own mouth. And, when my black colleagues were good enough or brutal enough to point them out to me … often laughing at me in the process. They knew that I was simply ignorant of the cultural difference between us. I think we taught each other. They taught me, for sure. 🙂 I no longer attempt to be politically correct at the expense of honesty. I smile today at the many instances of ridiculous and insulting and flat-out dumb stuff I said and assumed it to be true.

    Another story: Two black social workers in our unit were my most trusted colleagues. One was a girl who was technically black, but that’s about as far as her “blackness” extended if you subtracted her life in the black community church culture. (As I call it) We were on a trip to a conference. We shared a room. She was complaining about her unmanageable hair which was absolutely beautiful hair, BTW. I said, “If you’d stop putting that jelly shit on it…” She turned a nice shade of furious red and assured me that all black folks did not put that stuff on their hair! Her hair was about a fine as mine! I knew that, but my own unconscious stereotypical notions about black folks persisted in total contradiction of what I saw with my own eyes. Now that’s some strong stuff to overcome for a white girl. She put up with me in spite of my stupidity.

    My point here is that these little exchanges between races are so off-putting that real conversation often does not go beyond the initial ignorant and superficial exchange. I could cite many such revelations of my own ignorance and the misconceptions of my black colleagues as well. We accepted and respected each other on a professional level. We lived in different parts of town, worshiped (or not) at different
    churches, moved in separate social circles. Our children attended different nursery schools, kindergartens. and public schools. We did not know each other. We shared only photographs of our lives. We still do not know each other although we continue, after all these years, to talk by phone once a year at Christmas … catching up with our lives.

    While the social separation between races might have worked, albeit in a disadvantageous way, for us then, it is not workable today, and all of us are the poorer for it. 140 different languages are spoken in the the NYC school system alone. The demographics of this country are changing rapidly. We have to stop circling the White, religious, cultural, social wagons. The code phrase bandied about (Anglo-Saxon tradition) is becoming more irrelevant by the day.

    If you want to know what I really thing, just ask me.


    • Well Georgie, where shall I start? I can only somewhat imagine what it would’ve been like to work around you as a black woman back then. This is made-for-TV stuff and I can see you and Archie Bunker meeting up at the bar to exchange racial jokes. Like, race was so much more prevalent back then, you asked should your order black or white pens? Damn, woman! That’s quite a visual.

      I do believe that, if what you say is true, that “racism is so deeply entrenched that it is a part of the White DNA”, white folk don’t always understand their racial sins. I know some don’t want to get that deep into understanding either. I mean, it’s not natural that they will on account of the expectations being different for that time you reference. And let me add, you’re lucky one of them didn’t put on a ski mask and whip your ass, okay?

      Let me also say, as Virginia Slim said it back in the day, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

      But do tell me this. Was it a gradual transition that altered your perspective or was it that you and your colleagues were continuously teaching each other how to get along? I mean, what was the aha moment that moved you to being this candid?


      • Well, I was never a “real” racist. I was ignorant. I grew up in a white, rural bubble. It never occurred to me to wonder where black children went to school, for example. As a college freshman, it did not occur to me to wonder where the black student sat in the corner theater.

        The only black person I really knew growing up was our nanny, Mamie. She and my mother were the same kind of women in my youthful head. Their rules were the same and so was the information they seemed to be in possession of. They dressed very much alike. They spoke very much the same. Neither showed deference to the other on any matters that I heard when they sat at the kitchen table talking about us, politics, work, etc. The only difference that I remember was their color. Mamie was as hard on us as my mother was. There was a difference in their method of discipline, however. Mother fussed at us. Mamie, being a woman of few words, took a metal fly swatter of a hickory switch to our legs! We feared the switch and ignored the fussing. It was only after I grew up and asked my mother about it, that she confirmed why she worked in a factory and Mamie took care of us. Mother said that Mamie could not get a job in the factory because she was black. At that time, the only job available to mother that paid good wages was in that factory. She confirmed that Mamie was, like her, a self-educated woman who was active in her community too. They had a great deal more in common than not.

        The first time I remember having heard the word, “nigger”, was at the neighbor’s house across the street. The family there was more affluent than we were, but my parents had more influential roles in the community. That rendered us separate but equal. 🙂 One of the girls, who was, like me, a third-grader (in a private school in town) referred to Mamie as “that nigger who keeps you”. Immediately, I ran home to ask Mamie about it. When I asked, “Are you a nigger, Mamie?” She set the iron down and took hold of my shoulders. She never explained where the term came from or exactly what it meant, but the look on her face when she told me that if she ever heard me say that word again, she would take the hide off me was enough to put the fear of God into me. I was confused and filled with shame at having said something so bad … something that I didn’t understand. The sound of that word prompts me to physically recoil to this day.

        I grew up in a segregated community and attended a segregated public school that was within a block of my house. I never once laid eyes on any black children of my own age that I recall except in the cotton fields when we all picked cotton during school break in the fall. I didn’t notice it then, but now I know their parents kept them far away from us even there.

        There was a black janitor at our school. He had two sons. One day, I was out in our front yard when one of the sons came riding a horse bareback down the road directly in front of me. He was a handsome boy about my own age. I waved instinctively. He did not wave back. My father had come out of the house behind me, and apparently the boy saw him. Daddy walked over to me and quietly told me that I could not wave at him because the neighbors would not approve or some such explanation. Again, the concern on his face was another “Mamie” moment for me. I remember wanting to ask why, but I never did.

        My first encounter with black girls of my age was in college. We were never friends and none of them lived in my dorm or in any dorm on the campus that I knew. Now I know why they didn’t. Then it never occurred to me to wonder. My roommate, with whom I came to share an apartment that in a rundown house with a bunch of other apartment dwellers who were all crazy the best I could tell, collected all kinds of flower children (black and white) who were constantly draped over the furniture reading poetry and planning to save the world, if not the entire universe. One day, the discussion turned to protests. One of the girls asked me directly if I planned to march with them. I remember telling her that I absolutely was not going to parade around protesting a damn thing. I probably thought I had as hard a time as anybody could have so I was pretty blind to anything outside of my limited field of vision! Besides, I’m sure I couldn’t imagine what problems they, who were always flying off to New York for weekends and stuff, could possibly be serious about. I don’t think they ever tried to include me again. Well, I was married and always off to meet my husband anyway so I guess I didn’t really qualify as one of the group! I paid little attention to my roommate or to them so I didn’t learn much.

        What I am trying to tell you here is that basically I had little idea of and less exposure to anybody who was not “white like me”. My first real professional/social experience in an “integrated” setting was as a social worker. And, I’ve already told you a bit about that! Being the outsider in that group, I’m sure that I was trying my white bread best not to offend my colleagues with my own ignorance … and not too successfully, I might add, since they had far more experience with that shit than I did. I got in trouble with my big mouth when I told my friend about the jelly in the hair thing. I’m sure I got the notion from Mamie who always had the stuff in her own hair. Thus, I filed that in my head as the hair grooming method for all black folks.

        See? It’s as simple and as complicated as that. We got a lot of work to do on both sides, I think. We can get there, but not as long as we have our antennae extended to catch the slightest hint of what we think is racism on both sides. Often, racism does not exist where we think it does. As often, we speak from simply ignorance of each other. It would be far more constructive to point out misconceptions when we encounter them among our friends and colleagues. Fear of being racist is the worst form of racism.


        • Good grief, I didn’t answer your question. When I realized that I had unconsciously accumulated a body of misinformation about Blacks, I began to question everything I thought I knew. I read most of the black literature of the time. I was very curious about how we got where we were. I was horrified to discover how deep and wide racism and persecution of Blacks was. The events of the civil rights era were shocking and horrifying and eye-opening. Nobody who was not alive during that time can really understand how earth-shaking those events were. I would not have been able to believe it if I hadn’t seen and heard about it myself. And it was happening in MY present reality!
          As I worked and communicated with Blacks over the years and developed real friendships in that community, I became less fearful of asking what must have seemed like dumb questions or of making mistakes. I have always been unable to stop myself from saying mostly what I think. Especially if I feel comfortable with the person I’m talking with. I guess I finally just gave up on being careful. I think the real difference for me was that my family never hated Blacks. I did not grow up in an atmosphere of fear or hatred. I guess I just decided that I knew I was harmless and other folk ought to know it too. 🙂
          Yes, I did learn a tremendous amount about Black culture and about myself from my social worker friends. From the beginning, we were a friendly group. We were philosophically and intellectually pretty homogenous. We were never really hostile to each other about anything personal. We argued social policy questions, but we were all comfortable with that. I think their lifelong experience with white society made them realize that my comments were relatively benign and mostly ignorant. I guess they gave me the benefit of the doubt since I was sincerely stupid. 🙂 Yes, they gave me a hard time, but I deserved the abuse. The most telling thing about that time is that we remained friends for thirty years after I left the state. We don’t communicate as much now as we used to because some of them are dead or disabled or have moved, remarried, etc., but a few of us remain. I have a feeling that I am still the subject of many of their old jokes! 🙂


          • Wow. The stories inside of you and I can certainly appreciate the frankness in which you relate them.

            You know, some Blacks ignore the pain of racism. While it’s a embedded in the fabric of American culture, there’s just so much pain associated with remembering and having to live it. Now, my world is fairly sequestered. My own experiences have been being ignored in a store or followed until I left. The first time I was called nigger was in Texas and the guy spat the word at me with such loathing, I paused for a good minute and remember quite vividly how he thrust the words toward me. I didn’t feel one way or the other about him though. And while Blacks say they use it as a term of endearment, I’ve found nothing to be quite so pathetic of an explanation for using that term. Just recently, I was speaking to a white woman from Kentucky and apparently, she’d become very comfortable with me. She started say, ‘That nigger….” and said that another black woman told her, “I didn’t know you were black.” Both of them sickened me.

            What I’ve found is that whites are afraid to discuss race for fear of offending or not knowing what to say and blacks get angry. I’ve found that I’ve gotten angry but I’ve grown in ways to know that on some level, whites were dictated by laws that divided the races almost as much as Jim Crow laws ddid for Blacks. Today, we find ourselves in a delicate place where race relations are concerned and it won’t resolve itself and while we can talk, because it can be a healthy exchange, I don’t know that it’s a wound that’ll ever heal.


            • I’ve been thinking about this discussion. I think we’re each stating the obvious stuff here without dealing with the real problem. Communication. You are responding with the politically correct answers. We are posting mostly platitudes. None of us is addressing why we have a problem being honest. You’d think that no white person ever held a deep-seated resentment or an ignorant assumption in his life or ever tried to bridge the chasm that divides us, if you read us here.

              You compare me to Archie immediately. What did I say? I said that I was mistaken about something as innocuous as hair care, for God’s sake! I said I referred to pens as black or white. The first is a matter of simple ignorance and long held assumption based entirely on ads for hair care and Mamie’s explanation of how she kept her own hair from breaking. The second is a classic example of the result of a white girl’s nervous response to what she perceived as a passive-aggressive black girl’s long-standing responses. Whites know instinctively that they are on trial just as Blacks know they are profiled.

              I understand that my hair remark was perceived to be more significant than a simple exchange because of the underlying assumptions held by both of us. In itself, the remark was the same as I would have said to a curly-headed white girl. I have no idea how they manage their damn hair either. The problem is that my friend assumed that my concept of “black hair” was one of nappy-headed, unkempt and therefore no count black folk. Am I supposed to familiarize myself with the ins and outs of black hair care? The comment did expose my ignorance as a self-absorbed white girl. I’ll agree. But, racism? No. I was expected to laugh when our mutual social worker friend referred to my own hair with the comment, “You people have that chicken hair.” It IS chicken hair. Since her astute observation, I have referred to my hair as chicken hair every time I need to lament about it. It did not strike me as offensive. I laughed because I knew how she saw my fine, blond, Afro-challenged do! Our hair was very different.

              We need to analyze how one assumption is different from the other. Is either justified? How ridiculous are both in significance? The bottom line is that we are attributing misinformation and ignorance to racism on both sides. And, why the hell are we judging each other by the way we look? That’s the most superficial empirical evidence of racism I ever heard. We are less than 50 years out from a time in which whites hanged, shot, skinned, tortured, drowned and burned blacks to death simply because they were black and in the wrong place at the wrong time. You don’t have to know history to understand “Low Hanging Fruit”. From a time in which whites discounted Blacks as legitimate members of society at large. Perhaps, with the revival of Jim Crow, evidence is clear that the attitude persists.

              Now, Totsy, you initiated this conversation. Stop handling us with kid gloves. We’re grown-ups. To your credit, your Archie response revealed to me how Blacks still perceive our comments to be real racism and how Whites tell themselves they are not. Seems to me we’re generally ignorant of each other. Ignorance does not automatically prove racism although it contributes mightily to the racist mindset.

              I am a proving myself to be a podium hogger here if nothing else! 🙂


              • And a podium hogger you are.

                The small comments you say are ignorant and not having the insides of hair or whatever else deemed superfical, in many cases, lead up to something bigger. If not, that’s a good thing but we are on guard for such comments because Blacks in America, through time, have been made to feel deficient. While these comments may seem superficial, understand where that stems from.

                Because there has been little ongoing public discussion, we continue to be ignorant of one another and have these misunderstandings. Now, I’m not pussy-footing around race talk. I grew up with a very militant mother. Just say she was the female version of Malcolm X. My experiences have been different from yours and hers. My comparison of your pen story was not a misperception. It was me looking at it through that time period and knowing that race was more prevalent during that time. Assimilation at that time or when that show aired was still a new concept. No one quite knew how to exist in this new setting. Assimilation was not the same for me as that.

                America’s standard of beauty discounted Blacks and while it may seem superficial, experiment being Black for a period of time and know what it’s like to be stripped in that manner. And it would matter a great deal more in the 60s and 70s than now.

                I understand that ignorance and racism persists. Neither are going anywhere.


  6. I think it’s sad that race continues to play a role, but I do think it’s a factor in the volume of mudslinging that’s been thrown at Obama. I keep hoping that the majority of Americans aren’t that way, but I see it on both sides. There is an additional factor that I’m seeing because the African refugees of this era are so culturally different from Americans (especially in the male/female dynamic) that I hear racism creeping back in among young people who otherwise might not have given it a thought. I think we have to let go of our attachment to the “melting pot” myth. We do not come to this country and all become the same, nor would we want to. Can we maybe look at something like a stew or a pizza where there are a lot of different, distinct flavors that compliment each other instead?


    • Yes, it is sad. Though, amd I may sound rather pessimistic, but I think because of the history of race here in America, there’s not release from it. There are a great number of folk that hold on near and dear to those old ways of thinking and the media plays a large role in perpetuating that. You know, folk don’t always think for themselves, so here we are. I do, however, believe we’re moving away from the melting pot concept and thinking more along the lines the pizza. We have a lot of work to do and racism won’t altogether dissipate but where we were isn’t where we are now. We just have to continue an open forum to have these type discussions sp as not to shift to reverse.


      • I think the biggest factor is, in fact, that most people DON’T think for themselves; they think the way they were brought up. The go to the same church their parents did, vote the same political party, live in the same neighborhoods, and think the same way about race that their parents did. They rarely take those beliefs outside the box, take them apart and question themselves, “Is this what *I* truly believe?”

        Loving this discussion, Totsymae.


  7. Totsy, Wonderful, wonderful post! Knowing how sensitive the topic of Race in America is, you ask such great questions. Putting it right on the table and asking us point blank how we feel. Well, I spent most of my life being the only Latino family in white neighborhoods. And I’ve gotten to see all the changes and how the balance has tipped. I wish my parents were still alive to experience this. I love our multicultural society, but I worry about the seemingly increase in racism. Maybe it was there all along. But I can’t help but feel that the Tea Party is really another name for an organization that was very popular in the South for a century. Maybe I’m wrong. I’d love to be wrong. But in my gut, I wonder. They seemingly formed overnight when Pres Obama took office. I feel uncomfortable what this is doing to the Republican party.


    • Glad you like the post, Monica.

      The Tea Party is a grave concern and while we [folks of color] presume its identity to be akin to that famous organization down south, we have Herman Cain sticking out like a canker sour for them to say otherwise. It’s a covert operation that’s diligent in impeding any progress made by non-whites. I’d love for both of us to be wrong about that too but we aren’t. Though, I do believe they are a minority and decent Republican folk, I hope, are ashamed to have any association with them. I never knew the Party to be this blatant but for some odd reason, they feel threatened and going Jim Crow with these new voter laws. They’re a volatile group with political backing. Yes, they grew and spread like roaches but the positive of that is there are only a handful of folk who side with their extremism.


      • I know what you’re saying but seems to me the sane Republicans are leaving/retiring/not running again because of these extremists, and the rest (Mittens, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Newt, etc) seem to be giving in to the TP’s, and espousing their beliefs. They’re catering to them because of the power they seem to have. And don’t get me started on that Norquist fellow.


      • You can remove the rose-colored glasses now, Totsy. This kind of racial hatred has been festering for forty years under the surface of what appeared to be a kind of bitter and grudging tolerance of civil rights law. How do you explain the dragging to death of a black man in East Texas or the group of young white men who ran the guy over at the motel? When the sheriff was asked about the situation in that case, his response was that they had no race problem in their county. This was an isolated case. Several folks, including law enforcement, said the boys were good boys who had never been in trouble before. Others, fearful for their lives, hid their faces and said it was a pervasive problem and that they boys were known to intimidate Blacks and those who dared to defend them. Such incidents are not isolated.
        The Tea Party has had such success because people really do support their ideology. The Jim Crow revival is the product of a conservative right-wing Republican party. It frightens me because I see it and hear it from conservative whites whom I know. When the party dares to blatantly use code words and phrases publicly, it is because they know that they are speaking to sympathizers … not to a tiny percentage of fringe crazies. MIttens and Ryan are both speaking to the prejudices that they know very well are alive and well in the minds of the audience.


        • Over time, Blacks have had to learn various coping mechanisms in dealing with racism. We teach our boys how to behave when stopped by the police and address this in much the same way as parents address sex to their children. Depending on the challenge at the given time, seeing past it and believing earnestly that there are less folk with these type of ideologies is what some of us do, including myself. Sometimes. It’s one of the ways we’ve survived. Not that it’s ignored altogether. We, for those of us who believe in possibilities and work toward making the American Dream our reality, don’t want to view ourselves as victims. We pride our ability to overcome. The duality of our lives demands that at different times. I’m no Clarence Thomas, however, and one to ignore those realities and behaviors that are so immersed in American culture.


  8. Just a few questions? Okay, hon, here goes (and in the order asked):

    You bet your cute ass I most certainly will!
    We are better than we were in the late 1950s, early to mid-1960s.
    Slowly but surely.
    Because I grew up in a time where being a Negro wasn’t acceptable.
    They feel racism is getting worse in that only the targeted group has changed.
    On how they feel about it? Sometimes.
    I think they’re much more enlightened than people from past generations; the see the hatred and can’t make sense of it.
    Partially; in this, we elected the best man for the job at the time and he happened to be African-American.
    What kind of president would I want? One that can make things better for all of us, not just some of us.
    Pretty sure; looks mean nothing – it’s the ability to enact policies that work that matters.
    Too much; I still hear comments about “that nigger in the White House” – what does that tell you?
    He’s supposed to.
    Because we know from history that race and politics do not mix – ever. We are Americans, first and foremost and he swore an oath to the American people.
    Only on how stupid it is to be racist, which is something we all knew to begin with. What we talk about is how America has reacted to having a Black president and the negativity being attributed because he’s Black.
    That would be a very long blog all by itself.
    Are you serious? Not talking about it DOES NOT MAKE THE PROBLEM GO AWAY.
    Talking about it has always worked for me because it’s the only way to dispel the myths and cut through the bullshit to see that despite the color of our skins, we’re not all that different.
    Because they’re tired of living in ignorance and behaving in a way that was old and tired way before they were even born.
    I have no idea what people mean by that. To take our country back implies that it stopped being ours for some reason; that we lost it. Depending on ideology, I suppose that statement could mean anything.
    I don’t know why they sound – or are – angry when they say it.
    I have no feelings about that since I don’t understand the context in which the statement’s being made; again, I ask, simply, “Take it back from what or who?”
    I’ve always seen it; it’s just not as wide as it used to be.
    Of course they do; they’re neither blind nor stupid: It exists.
    Yes, I’d like that a whole lot, thank you.
    I’d say it would be impossible; our differences cannot be settled without meaningful dialog between us all.

    I need a nap now…


    • Well, you’re a patient man. 🙂

      We have to treat this as a marriage because no one is going anywhere and we should be far beond a two-year old mentality of ‘this is mine.’ My understanding of taking the country back is the shift in power going to people of color. It’s become a Tea Party motto. Had you ever heard of this group during Bush’s presidency? ‘Our’ is not inclusive of you and me.


      • Oh, so white folks are always supposed to run things? What an insular and dumb way to think! I don’t pay much attention to the Tea Party rantings and ravings and, no, they didn’t exist when Bush was president. See, when it was clear that a Black man had a damned good chance of winning, the Tea Party came out of the woodwork with their insane ideas of how to ‘put the country back together’ and no one I know takes them seriously.

        Then again, I’m not sure anyone understands why things can’t get done regardless of who’s sitting in the big chair; the change isn’t needed at the top – Congress needs to change because, duh, no president can do all that stuff they promised unless Congress approves it.


          • Well, I kinda hate to say this but people like that are responsible for the downfall of this country; time to let other intelligent folks give it a shot to restore us to our former greatness. And we can start taking back the country by making the Tea Party go away…


  9. Tots, I seem to have monopolized the conversation here. My intent was to shed a bit of light on what happened to me since I am the oldest member of your fan club. I did live in a time of total racial segregation. Unless you lived in that time, I think it would be very difficult to imagine what it was like or that life was different for different folks depending on where they lived. I don’t mean to paint a benign picture of life in the segregated south. My family did not travel far from home or stay in hotels or visit urban areas. The community was very small and insulated from the obvious social conflicts that were to follow after I left home.
    I hope that other bloggers will share their experiences as well. I hope you will share your own.


  10. ***Warning: Very long response alert!***

    Totsy, you’ve asked a lot of questions, and you’re right, how can we possibly ever get along if we don’t discuss, and discuss these issues deeply, not just casually without substantive depth? So I’ll try to answer a number of your questions, and maybe reserve a few to you for myself as well.

    Are you voting this year? Yes, as always. Never missed an election. It’s a right (not a privilege) I take rather seriously.

    May I ask you where we are with race relations in America? Are we getting better? What makes you think so? From an observational standpoint, I can see an overall trend of improvement in my lifetime. I also see substantial differences in opinions when stratified by ages. Certainly it seems to be a lesser factor with the very young, and as the older folks eventually perish, a good amount of the older attitudes will eventually go with them. That is not to say in this day and age of media overexposure that the flames aren’t fanned and the most egregious examples of blatant racism and clashes are put front and center, but in the mainstream society, the people with whom we deal with on a daily basis and encounter along our lives, it does appear that in my own short lifetime, a pretty fundamental shift and movement about race has taken place. How else would you explain an election of our current President? Would this have been possible a mere 30 or 40 years ago?

    How do you think folks who don’t look like you feel about where we are on this matter? Do you ever empathize on that? What makes them feel that way? Up until recently, I’ve always thought above the matter of race alone. Ultimately we have many common problems be they related to financial, health, jobs, and relationships. I’d like to think these are common threads that weave across all our lives and ties us together, though admittedly, I’ve never thought of race as being another complicating factor. Try as I may, I don’t know what it’s like to be black, all other things being equal, and what kind of affect that might have on me. That in and of itself does not make me a bad person though. And I feel badly when that is thrown in my face, for I like to think of myself as a rather empathic person. We have a lot of gap to bridge here.

    You think we’re getting better ’cause we’ve got an African American president? Not sure what you mean by getting better. If you mean with regard to race relations, I’d have to say it is pretty compelling that things have improved in order to have elected a president who, thirty or more years ago could not have been under any imaginable circumstances. Progress? Sure. Perfection. No way.

    What kind of president did you say you want? I’d be happy for one that is incredibly intelligent, is in touch with the people he or she is charged to govern, has a good grasp of economics and policy, knows how to balance between public and private solutions to our economy, is not beholden to special interest groups, and can forge bi-partisan arrangements to just get things done. I know, I know – the Holy Grail. No one like that exists within our framework that is Washington politics right now.

    Does your president have to look like you or can he look like me? Tots, we could use a President that looks (and acts) like you. I’ve said many times you should run for President. You’d have my vote.

    Does it matter how he looks at all? Are you sure? No, not to me. At all. And yes I’m totally sure. I do wonder however in this photogenic media centered society if it does matter. Look at what’s become of the music industry – a selection based more on looks and moves than of genuine musical talent. Can’t be far behind when “focus group marketing panels” will select the optimal political candidate as mouthpiece instead of their ability to understand and implement policy.

    How much of a factor has race played into the political game in the last four years? Do you feel as if your president represents you regardless of color? Can you expound on why you feel that way? I’m white. I voted for Barack Obama four years ago, not because he was Black, but because I felt he was intelligent and offered a better solution to the problems than did John McCain. Because I voted on that criteria, I feel as though I can likewise be critical if some of the programs fell a bit short of the mark without feeling the need to be accused of being racist or affected by race. Given the choice between Romney and Obama, I will once again choose to vote for Obama, for I don’t feel there is any intellectual honesty by Romney and the Republicans that will actually solve the fiscal dilemma that needs to be reckoned with. But no, it is not about race with me. I can say though it is about race with others, most of whom might vote against Obama, and to be honest, some of whom might vote for Obama as well. To say otherwise is intellectually dishonest. Not all voters are well informed – has been for quite some time and not likely to change.

    Ever have conversations about race among friends and family? Would you care to share snippets of those conversations? Yes. We have discussions about race among friends and family all the time at my house. Totsy, my oldest daughter is engaged to be married next year – to a wonderful man, an African American man who is so very good to her. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was an adjustment and a true reality check, at least initially, for me and my family. It didn’t take long for all of us to warm up to her fiance, who is impossible not to love. But surprised I was initially. Over the past year or so, I’ve seen firsthand some of the judgment that people pass on, though admittedly, as I’ve said before, it is so much less of a factor with younger kids, and a bit more troublesome with older folks. So yes, as our families get to know each other and enjoy each other’s company, we do discuss race, ethnicity, cultural commonalities, and cultural differences. At the end of the day, we eat, drink, and are merry, for we are all God’s children. My daughter’s fiance rather likes Italian cooking, btw.

    So, you think not talking about race makes it all better? How does that happen? Has it been working for you? Why do you think folk want to have this conversation? We need to just move on? Okay. Not sure why you’d say this nor do I agree with it.

    If I may ask a handful of other questions, can I ask you what folks mean when they say we want to take our country back? Why are they so angry when they say that? Do you feel the same way? Do you think there’s a racial divide in America? You don’t see one? Do your friends who don’t look like you see one? Those are some loaded questions, and ones that mean many different things to different people. It could very well be veiled language by some to roll back all the progress that was made and a return to the “good old days” that they mistakenly think can be achieved. It is not exclusive to race however, for many of these comments also attack our current culture of permissiveness toward sex, abortion, perceived immorality, and broken homes and family structure. So yes, race may be a component, but many of those chanting about taking our Country back also broaden it to many other factors. I don’t necessarily agree with their assertions, but I don’t think it is only about race Totsy.

    You just want us all to get along? How can we get along if we don’t talk? Yes! I want us to all get along. And we should talk. Thanks for giving us a podium. And please accept my apologies for being so long-winded.


    • Took me, seems like, two days to read this. 🙂 Thank you for your time and thoughts.

      Those commonalities of what all of our basic needs and desires are aren’t common thoughts among some segmented populations. If it were, we’d not have a continous need for race talks. Unfortunately, we keep finding ourselves at this place we’re in now. Race discussions are prevalent topics among African Americans and it’s not something many of us want to keep having conversations about. We’d like to live without the veil. There’s been a great deal of progress on both sides, however. We’ve evolved, for the most part, in how we deal with race.

      I’m not convinced we’ll ever perfect the mode of civility among the races, as the cancer of racism isn’t limited to the shores of America. I could be wrong and would like to be. I’m sure there were some slaves who never thought they’d be free or desegregation would be a reality. There’s always a thread of hope.

      Funny how we don’t think about our kids bringing folk outside our own race home to marry. My son’s first girlfriend was Korean. I have to admit it took me a minute to get used to looking at her with Mr Boy, eventhough I’d been around all manner of folk. She was nice though, so I got use to her and since I’d never had a great deal of conversation with my two about race, I shouldn’t have presumed they’d only be dating within our race. I suppose I did a little something right by not talking ’cause I never wanted my or other folk experiences to be theres. I wanted them to go about their own business of living and then come home to tell me a little something. Tell the new son to watch his waistline eating all that pasta, btw.

      I couldn’t run for president. I’d write some hellified speeches for one though. Imagine Obama talking in my dialect come inauguration day.


  11. These are great questions, some with no answers and some with obvious answers that most of us do not want to hear. Race and racism has played a huge role in politics over the past four years, anyone who believes otherwise has buried their head in the sand right up to their tidy whities.

    In part the reason our President has met with so much obstruction is the historically White power Washington has reacted to a Black Man in the White House as anything other than the Butler. This has turned their world sideways, they weren’t ready for the Diversity of the United States to be reflected in Washington and most certainly not in the center of power, the Oval Office.

    Barack Obama turned out the vote in 2008. I hope beyond hope that we will turn out for our President again in 2012. I hope the ugliness of the past for years and of this election season will turn us out for not just this President but for all the seats he needs in Congress up for grabs, so we can actually get a working Congress and get rid of the Obstructionist Tea Party members.

    This President has been met with the most vicious and ugly campaign of character assignation any of us have seen of a President. Yeah, Clinton was bad but this was has been worse.

    Does this President represent me? Yes, most of the time and on most issues. Not because of the color of his skin or of mine. But because of his policies and of mine.

    Does it matter that he is Black, how he looks? Yes, you know in a strange way it does matter that he is representative of the diversity of this nation. Yes, it matters that he is young and handsome and that he has a young and handsome family. It makes him somehow more accessible.

    Will I vote? Oh hell yes.


    • I agree. President Obama has endured hostile attacks. Yet, he’s met it all with dignity and grace. Like yourself, I feel he represents me, not because of his color, but his policies and what he’s extended to the America people. Everyone benefits. As for Clinton, I think he pretty much put himself under the microscope. And to offer you a little side dish to that, you know Monica Lewinski’s been offered beaucoup bucks for a tell-all, right? Oh, yeah.

      And no, the power structure of the good ole boys has been shaken. But just wait ’til November.


  12. I just stopped by to thank you for visiting my blog. I hesitate to enter politics. My best friends are Republican and we remain friends by avoiding the topic (for the most part). All the best to you.


    • Hi, Victor. George told me about your site when I was in Saudi. I’ve been back for over a month now. Was in Al Jouf. Glad your experience is better than mine was.

      And thanks for stopping by. Will see you around after the election. 🙂


  13. I grew-up in Los Angeles during the 50’s and 60’s. Lived in the ‘curfew zone’ during the Watts Riots. Folks seem more tolerant today, but I sense there’s still plenty of racial prejudice/animosity going on. The racial BS has become more subtle, especially with President Obama, but it’s still there, and being used by a group of folks that can’t stand the fact that America has a black president.


  14. I will say that in 2012, race continues to be an issue. If I can attend a project management workshop just last week and still be the only African-American there, race is an issue. It was at a swanky country club and maybe that is the reason. But this just gives more justification to what I just said.

    My neighbor called my husband the “n” word. When I approached him to edify him, he called me the same thing. This is all happening in 2012. Brown vs the Board of Education of Topeka, KS was in 1954. Is less than 60 years ago really enough time to get past the 200 years of slavery and the subsequent Jim Crow laws? I’d say that enough time has not passed to get most of us to an equitable state.


  15. Woo, all very pertinent questions, Totsymae! I love how you kicked off the conversation. 🙂 I think that having a “conversation”, in fact several, over time and in many different places, is a great and important place to start. They need to happen at the dinner table, sans the media (though some of it provides quite a bit of fodder), in cafes, with co-workers, and neighbors. Unfortunately, those are just the places that they are too often avoided.

    I won’t spend a lot of time answering the questions here; instead, I’ll save some for my contributions on the subject. I will say this, however: I wish race didn’t matter, but it does. It will and should continue to matter, so long as it is important to the members of the conversation. I believe that we live in anything but a post-racial era, therefore we can’t be afraid to raise the intelligent questions despite how uncomfortable it makes us feel. I say “go there”, and “get to know folk!” I tell folk that I have no problem with having the conversation; just be respectful, and ensure that your argument or position is construct-ed, construct-ive, and furthers the purpose of the conversation, not just to argue me to death on your damn opinion! Keep it civil, unlike the environment that is fostered by those hate mongers that submit all kinds of anonymous comments all over the blogosphere with typos, wrong word usage, etc, just for the purpose of getting folks all riled up.


    • And destructive and not constructive thought is what we got from Sununu calling the President lazy. That’s blatant disrespect once again by angry old white men, some of which are representing folk in DC. Also, the stuff Tea Partyers are made of.

      I don’t know if civility is part of their make up or if I go by George’s comments, that it’s too much like making nice. We walk a thin line between race and civility. And if hatemongers have to create an alternate identity like those folk who hide behind white sheets, we know they’re cowards anyway.

      I look forward to reading commentary on your blog.


  16. Wow, Totsy, way to get the conversation flowing! I’m watching from north of the border, taking it all in. For countries that are so similar in so many ways, politics is a whole other story down there. The exchange here is excellent … articulate, intelligent, enlightening. Keep it going!


  17. I came in late on this one and don’t have much more to add. You started a great discussion that should be had everywhere. Just talking about what people perceive and what they’d like to see happen will surely move us in a more productive direction than sweeping these issues under the carpet.


  18. That’s a lot of questions for the first day! I’m just going to answer some of them…

    Are you voting this year?
    Yes, absolutely. Not just for president — there are lots of offices and initiatives on the ballot that I care about.

    May I ask you where we are with race relations in America? Are we getting better?
    Looking back at the last 20 years or so, I think relations between some groups are about the same and some are worse. I don’t see much of a change in black/white relations, but some of the new laws targeting immigrants, or people who look like immigrants, are horrible and a huge step backwards. And attitudes towards anyone who looks even vaguely Middle Eastern have gotten worse.

    How do you think folks who don’t look like you feel about where we are on this matter?
    I don’t know, but I’d imagine they feel it more — to me, it’s something abstract that I think about, not something I deal with every day.

    You think we’re getting better ’cause we’ve got an African American president?
    It doesn’t hurt, but I don’t know whether it helps. One thing I wonder about, with the Birthers, is whether there are people who just can’t believe that an African American could be as intelligent and accomplished as Obama, so therefor he has to be part of some elaborate foreign plot.

    What kind of president did you say you want?
    A reality-based one.

    Does your president have to look like you or can he look like me?
    He or she can look like anyone.

    Does it matter how he looks at all?

    Are you sure?
    Well … no. I felt like a milestone had been accomplished when we elected an African American president. Even though, in reality, I don’t think it changed anything.


  19. Pingback: Race 2012 – How Can We Get Along if We Don’t Talk? « Monica's Tangled Web
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