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Web Letter

I thoroughly enjoyed the article presented here. I was deeply moved by Obama's speech. It was both brave and sincere. I write here not in response to either but in response to the response.

Prior to this I think I was somewhat overly optimistic. I thought, and still hold out hope, that finally we are moving away from the racist ideologies that have defined our country for too long. Unfortunately the responses to the snippets of Rev. Wright's sermons and to Obama's speech reveal how much further we still have to go.

They reveal a prevalent denial of our history and current moment in time. Putting our whole racially biased prison system on the shelf for a moment, we just a few seconds ago were discussing the racist treatment of six kids in Jena, Louisiana. These incidents are not unique. In liberal Baltimore I constantly have to correct the racist and bigoted comments directed at my children. If I go back a few months, pundits were defending the racist diatribe of Don Imus. Still further back, there was Hurricane Katrina. I could keep going in either direction. Everything about who we are, where we are and what we experience is still tainted by race. Less so but… still so.

When are people in this country going to fully embrace this country for what it was and is--the good and bad? Our history is tainted by foul racism. And while it might be convenient and safer to boil our history of race problems down to the separate bathrooms of the Jim Crow era, it’s insulting to the thousands of people who were murdered because of race in this country. People of all colors did not fight over separate bathrooms. It was not about sharing a damn water fountain. And to simplify the lives of those people to that is---do I have the words? nothing adequate--insulting and repulsive.

Obama is where he is not because he is a black man, half-white man, Harvard graduate or young senator. Obama is where he is because of something not easily defined, something that has nothing or maybe everything to do with those things. Obama is where he is because those of us with our eyes open see and hear greatness. We can think about those other imperfect, inexperienced men who created an imperfect country with imperfect beliefs about equality without knowing where it would go or if it would survive.

While gender inequality and violence against women are important, they are different issues and not relevant to this particular conversation.

Why is it so difficult for so many of us to deal with the impact of racism on Americans today? Or in the past? Why do so many of us readily dismiss the anger of Rev. Wright and label him as some sort of throwback? Why haven’t many of us listened to the entire sermon, which wasn’t so much about examining/blaming/labeling America as it was about self-examination in the face of extreme adversity? Why are so many people afraid to call Ferraro a racist? When will we grow up and admit we have work to do?

Angela Alvarez

Baltimore, MD

Mar 23 2008 - 8:03pm

Web Letter

Should a true feminist be antiracist? Yes. Should an antiracist be a feminist? Yes. Is it always true? Of course not. I do not approve of what Ferraro said. But I surely have something to say.

I saw Obama's speech on race and I was very impressed. I like him as a person and candidate and I am immensely proud that our nation seems to finally be ready to have a frank and nuanced discussion about race. But I am growing increasing angry that our nation does not appear to be even remotely ready to have a frank discussion of sexism.

Though, I can think of few things more grotesque than the lynching of a black man, at least twice a week I see the pretty face of a young, middle-class white woman, plastered across the TV screen because she's either missing or has been found after a brutal rape/murder. And for every one of those, there are hundreds of women, less pretty, less wealthy, and less white, who are ignored by the major media, also rotting away in shallow graves, in blue barrels, or under the backyard bonfire pit of an ex-boyfriend, husband, acquaintance or family member. Each of these is a gender-based hate crime, a daily deluge of "lynchings" of women, who (as John Lennon said) is nigger of the world.

I almost became one of those bodies whose fragile bones may have been unearthed during the ground breaking of a construction project, or after a dog carried my dried skull in from the vacant lot as a toy. In 1974, I was 9 years old and being brutally, violently raped by my uncle. I screamed as loudly as I could in the hopes the neighbors would hear. He silenced me by strangling me. As I went unconscious, I really believed he was killing me. I regained consciousness after the rape was over, in terrible physical pain and my future achievement potential now crippled with mental and emotional baggage. I look back and realize that it would have been so easy to accidentally strangle me too long, or snap my fragile neck. And surely my uncle would not have called 911. Surely he would have done everything he could to cover up his crime. And regardless of whether anyone believed his story, or prosecuted or imprisoned him; and regardless of whether my body found its way to a coffin and a proper burial, or remained under a freshly poured slab of cement in his back yard, I'd still be just as dead.

This is the daily bread of being female in America. Women travel in packs for safety and lock up their houses and cars like Fort Knox. Women are ever vigilant and even so, it is estimated that 75 percent of American women will be raped or otherwise physically sexually assaulted at sometime in their lives. All of this horror and I haven't even touched on the gender bigotry of domestic violence or the sexual slavery that makes up part of the worldwide sex trade.

This morning, I turned on the progressive radio station Air America because I wanted to hear some positive response to Obama's speech. But I turned it on just in time to hear Lionel say he wanted someone to slap Mika Brzezinski because she interfered with his ability to enjoy listening of Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe (MSNBC). His next caller joked with him that he liked Mika because she was "hot," he just turned the sound off when she speaks. In other words, "Shut up and be titillating; that's all you're good for."

I have heard so many countless sexist things during this campaign and almost every time, no objection is raised. I expect this bigotry from the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals on Fox, but the urge to vomit is so much more urgent when I hear it from so-called "progressives" on Air America. I have grown envious of people of color who can now expect outrage from all corners the moment a racist or even potentially racist statement is uttered. I do not disregard the moral tragedy that the racist statement was uttered in the first place, but I would feel so much more visible and human if I could expect that kind of group/public outrage when bigotry is voiced toward my gender. And though I am so very proud that we as a nation may actually take steps toward healing our racial divide, before we can have that "more perfect union" we have a far more prevalent and brutal present-day "ism" that is going unacknowledged, unnoticed, and un-addressed, right under our noses.

Hillary has worked very hard and accomplished so much for both women's and children's rights at home and abroad. But to see Hillary in the White House, as President of the United States, will effect everyone's perceptions of gender and power, and that is a powerful step in the right direction toward ending the killing fields that right here, right now, continue to grow in every state and territory of the USA.

Sandra Lorean

Atlanta, GA

Mar 23 2008 - 2:14pm

Web Letter

I did not find Ms Ferraro's comments racist. She could have expressed it better but it is true that few women would find themselves in Mr. Obama's position with such a slim résumé.

Alfred Towers

Montreal, Quebec

Mar 23 2008 - 1:23pm

Web Letter

Whether Ferraro is racist or not is not an issue that I am prepared to comment upon with too much confidence. What I do know is that there is a way in which Obama's ascent is a function of his race. It perturbs me that some much has been made of the this claim. Obama himself tends to suggest the same in his two memoirs. He's certainly had to overcome a series of obstacles that a white man would not likely confront. However, once Obama made it into the public consciousness, he has benefited from his race. First, all the media attention surrounding his Senate campaign in 2004. It is difficult to imagine Kerry letting a 43-year-old white male political upstart deliver the keynote address. It is also difficult to imagine every major news magazine in the country giving a cover story to a white male Obama after he was elected. Without news coverage, I am not certain that one is able to become a celebrity. Celebrity in part buttressed Obama into the race to be President. We need not go referring to this phenomenon as affirmative action as such. But his path, ironically and paradoxically, has in part been paved by race.

Anthony Terrance Wiley

Philadelphia, PA

Mar 23 2008 - 8:37am

Web Letter

I found Pastor Wright's comment's distasteful and his embrace of Louis Farrakhan abhorrent. That said, trying to belittle the anger of black Americans is not only misguided, it is wrong. The worst evil the world has faced was the Nazis in World War II. Black soldiers fought and gave their lives but were not allowed to stay in the same barracks with white soldiers and were treated like third-class citizens at best. Yet, when they died, their blood was no different from their white counterparts'. They returned home to water fountains they were not allowed to drink from, restaurants they were not allowed to eat in, and had to sit in the back of the bus.

The Tuskegee episode had the American government using blacks as experimental guinea pigs. While I, too, find accusations of the government manufacturing the HIV virus to murder blacks outrageous, any black American that was taught about the Tuskegee disgrace has reason to doubt their government. Voter suppression of blacks was rampant and even as recently as the 2000 election for President there were allegations of attempts to turn away black voters. The entire world saw black bodies floating down the flooded streets of New Orleans as the federal government stood by and did nothing while the Black neighborhoods of New Orleans were destroyed. Today, in 2008, black men are still stopped at random by policemen for the sole reason they are black. A black man trying to catch a taxi in most major cities in America has a less than 50 percent chance the taxi will stop for him.

Yes, I abhor what Reverend Wright says. I am white and I am Jewish, but I still can understand his anger and the anger and doubts of most black Americans. We can criticize him all we want for hating us, but history shows his animosity is most definitely not make believe. There were wrongs that were righted and wrongs and injustice that still must be righted, but we do our country a great disservice by dismissing everything the man said as ranting and raving. We cannot move forward if we cannot understand our past, and we must embrace one another as equals and treat one another as we would like others to treat us.

Mark Jeffery Koch

Cherry Hill , NJ

Mar 22 2008 - 10:06pm

Web Letter

Ms. Ferraro is a blatant example of why the Clintons' time has passed. Recalling JFK, this country is ready for a new generation to lead. Although I have been challenged to stay positive this past week, yesterday's rally and the Bill Richardson endorsement refueled me. It was striking to me that it was in Oregon, one of the "newer" states where generations of racial divides never developed. When we moved from New Jersey to California in 1962 I learned that people from different ethnic groups didn't normally live in different parts of town. Forty years later, it is amazing that we are on the brink of having an African-American President. There is much to be hopeful for, not the least of which is that so many people don't think the way that Ms. Ferraro does and don't appreciate the political chicanery of the Clintons.

Linda Bahlman

Santa Barbara, CA

Mar 22 2008 - 7:26am

Web Letter

"When former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro sees Barack Obama--a black man, raised by a single mother, whose middle name is Hussein and whose surname rhymes with Osama--she sees privilege."

Really? On the other hand, Maybe she sees a Harvard Law Grad, a former state legislator, a current US senator, and presidential candidate who got where he is primarily because he looks the part, and got a leg up almost every step of the way (quotas, affirmative action, white guilt and the Chicago Sun-Times, don't ya know).

By the way, there's nothing "postracial" about the way Barack Obama's been playing the victim lately. Accusations of racism against his critics are made subtly, indirectly, but oh so predictably, this article being one of the more overt examples.

Of Course, as a McCain supporter, I'm enjoying the show immensely.

Dave Barlett

Miami, FL

Mar 21 2008 - 10:45pm

Web Letter

As a white progressive Democrat, the husband of an African-American woman and the father of a biracial child, I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to hear the Clintons and Ferraros of the world talk.

We all accept, or at least I do, that Hannity and Limbaugh and Bush and Trent Lott and Pat Buchanan and Falwell and so many others on the right are racists. Hell, I even understand liberal racism, the kind in which whites in power pat blacks on the head like they are little children and expect a thank-you from them for our helping build that great new project in the center of 666 hellcity USA. I spent nearly five years living in projects in Reading, Pennsylvania, as a child and I can tell you, I never said thank you. I grew up on welfare, eating government cheese and bread, soup and chips, corn and meat and I can tell you, I never said thank you. I had a welfare meal ticket for lunches almost every year I was in school, and I never said thank you. I lived in government-supported and church-supported children's homes and foster care and group homes and independent living centers, and never once said thank you--because I would rather have been taught how to live than how to receive.

However, in spite of my background, my liberal ideology and my hard-earned education, the blatant racism expressed by Democrats Clinton and Ferraro and then their hiding behind blaming the real victim and their claims of being victims themselves has just about removed me from voting in this election, should Obama lose this primary.

This has become too personal ,and while I may not want to fully accept this as fact, it may have gone too far this time. Thank you, Clintons.

Lucem ferre LeVan

Thorndale, PA

Mar 21 2008 - 1:11pm

Web Letter

Thank you for citing John Berger, a social analyst and thinker of genuine distinction. It is a relief to encounter commentary using Berger's thinking & analysis as a springboard, rather than, say, Wm. Buckley's or C. Hitchens's glib patter, as has too often been the case lately.

Given the limits of Ferraro's knowledge, what she sees is competition, be it from men or women of color. She considers this competition as unfair, at the very least. People of color, according to all Ferraro has learned, should at the very least know their place.

The piece is compelling in its presentation of what we know about Obama. Given all his remarkable talents, if he were white, he would not only be a contender but a contender without encumbrances. In other words, an obviously clear leader of distinction. A winning leader with qualities that place him above any presidential candidate in living memory.

What Ferraro "knows," however, is that people of color are not supposed to have such remarkable qualities, certainly not in such abundance. And such "knowledge" is indeed racism.

R.H. Weber

Geneva, Switzerland

Mar 20 2008 - 4:18pm

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