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I'm a little worried about where we are as a country. How did we get to this point? Why did we get to this point? And more importantly, where do we go from here?

Hate, in all it's virulent manifestations, has always existed, whether we admit to personally witnessing it or not. To hide your head in the white sands of ignorance and pretend that it does not exist because some right-leaning talking head once proclaimed that we now live in a "post-racial society" is more than naive. It is enabling the culture to grow unchecked by your unwillingness to face the truth that lives all around you. Perhaps though, the problem is less not wanting to look, but more not knowing how to see.

The neighborhood where I grew up in the 70's was, at the time, the last unintegrated area of Chicago, and the white inhabitants intended to keep it that way. Being a kid, 7, 8, 9 years old, I really didn't know any better. I didn't watch the news, and if I did happen to catch a glimpse of a story about a race riot, it meant very little to me. Those activities were nothing I could personally relate to, since I never viewed them on any level with my own eyes.

That's not in any way meant to suggest that I was unaware of "them". The Blacks. Although, blacks wasn't the word of choice around my house. The N-word was tossed around with such casual frequency by my father and other family members that I wouldn't be surprised to open my baby book and read that it was one of the first words I uttered.

In my defense, I did not know any better. If you're told as a child that Vic Damone is the greatest singer in the world, then you believe in the lone magnificence that is Vic Damone, because, after all, that is what your parents told you. For a long stretch of your early life, especially back in the days that preceded the internet and satellite television, your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends were your only credible news source. They informed you of a worldview that was not broadcast anywhere else. You learned of subjects that your school neglected to teach. What to eat, what to wear, pet or no pet, Pepsi or Coke, etc. And weighing even heavier than the subject matter was the commentary on the subjects themselves. What to think. Until the time when you are exposed to a wider range of ideas, and become sophisticated enough to make a valued decision on your own, your parents' opinions are your opinions, too.

I'm ashamed to admit that I lived in a shadow of ignorance for as long as I did. I heard all the jokes and thought nothing of them. They were as prevalent as the standard issue Polish/Italian/Irish jokes of the day ~ to an 8 year old, nothing more and nothing less. When they were repeated around home, school, or elsewhere, no one intervened to enlighten our under-developed minds of the inherent ugliness and hatred that clung to every punchline, or to warn us that with each laugh, we were laying the foundation to a possible future of blind hatred and corroded morals. We would stand under the flag as it waved proudly over the school's door, and cruelly dismiss and marginalize a segment of the country's population by repeating the crude jokes that were overheard, and in some cases, told to us directly, by the adults in our lives, without ever knowing just how wrong and unintentionally hateful we were.

If you've ever seen the original "Blues Brothers", then you are familiar with the scene in the park where they encounter members of the Illinois Nazi party. That idea did not randomly form in the imagination of Dan Aykroyd. It was all too true. The park was Marquette Park, on the southwest side, and the Illinois Nazis were an actual hate group with an office in the neighborhood. They would boastfully strut around town wearing Nazi uniforms, and not just at parades or events, either ~ I remember seeing a man in full regalia shopping at a nearby grocery store. They were considered so commonplace in the area, that I recall being handed fliers, while in the playground during school hours, warning us of the Black Menace that was plaguing the city. The missives were as racist as you could imagine, but filled with cartoons and jokes to attract interest from us stupid kids. Why pass up the chance to cultivate a future generation of hatemongers?

One of the biggest purveyors of these sick notions was my own father. But as much as he so willingly proclaimed to anyone who would listen about how much he hated, hated, blacks, (again, I use a placeholder word here), I slowly began to notice a disconnect between his words and his actions ~ he would watch, and seemingly enjoy, black people on television. Sammy Davis Jr., Redd Foxx, Flip Wilson, and Nipsey Russell would all make him laugh, while Walter Payton and other black athletes made him cheer. Something in my young mind found this puzzling, so I asked him why he didn't seem to dislike these black people as much as the other ones I constantly heard him complaining about. What made them so different?

He replied without a moments deliberation. "There are good ones and bad ones. These are the good ones."

The response was so swift and effortless, as if he was absently answering the question of "Fries or baked potato?", to finish out his dinner order.

For quite some time I struggled with the concept of good ones and bad ones, because as a white boy, I had heard, read, and seen my fair share of bad ones who wore the same color skin that covered my own body. And if it's true that there are good ones and bad one within a race, is that in itself enough to cripple and destroy the entire race? Are we all to be judged by the worst examples of people our own color? If so, then the entire white race was just as guilty of everything we accused the black race of being. My father and his sublime bigotry provided me with an unintentional lesson in race relations.

Even though my thoughts were reaching in new directions, the neighborhood was still all white, and my friends were all white. Certainly not their fault ~ you can't blame someone for being white, just for acting white, and at this ripe age, that's really all many of us knew how to do. I was not yet old enough to drive, so that impaired me from experiencing any interactive diversity on my own. City buses were available as a mode of transportation, but you couldn't step on to one without hearing the words of your parents ringing through your head ~ "Be careful. Don't go too far away from the neighborhood. It's dangerous." As open-minded as I was, or rather, wanted to be, a fear persisted inside, one that was implanted in me as a child and could not easily be shaken off. You tried to see the world with a new set of eyes, but were continually haunted by those foundational teachings, as repulsive and wrong as they were. If the adults were attempting to create human Pavlov's Dogs of Intolerance, they succeeded.

It wasn't until 1979 when I was 16 and working at a movie theater in the local shopping mall that I came into daily contact with African Americans. I know, sad, isn't it? Slowly, that inner fear which would unexpectedly grip me from time to time began to erode, because guess what? I realized that black people weren't any different from the white people I knew ~ some very nice, some not so nice, and a whole lot more residing between the two extremes. How could my father, and so many others like him, hate this entire group of people? Why did they hate them? It was making less and less sense to me, and I began to see my fellow white people in a new light. A light that was exposing flaws I had not previously seen. Or chosen to see.

The turning point for me occurred one day while working at the cinema. For the first time, an African American had recently been hired as an usher ~ not because of a sudden desire to compensate for years of inequality, but rather because our theater had a weekend softball team, and in his lust for wanting to crush teams from other theaters, our assistant manager tried to hire as many burly guys who applied for summer jobs as he could. Enter this African American teen, who, for the sake of this story, I will call Dave. Dave was a nice guy, kind of funny, but for the most part, kept to himself.

One day, after walking out of the theater where I just made my rounds, I entered the lobby where Dave was working as the ticket taker. For the sake of clarity, the cinema had three theaters, each with its own separate entrance, not like now, where a moviegoer would find one entrance that funnels into twelve or more separate theaters. What I found though, when walking into the lobby, was not Dave standing at the door, but rather backed into the concession counter by five white kids, all his age, but half his size. They were threatening him, throwing out the N-word, and telling him he didn't belong there. I don't know what the hell came over me, because I had never considered taking a stand against racial prejudice at any point previously in my life, but the next thing I knew, I was standing in front of Dave, telling those five white kids to get the fuck out of my theater, or I'd personally kick all of their asses. The truth is, I wasn't a big guy, and would have undoubtedly lost miserably. But there was something in my fury that spoke to them, and they left without further incident, other than calling me a n**r lover and kicking the glass entry doors, that is. I felt good about what had just happened, but then Dave opened his mouth and ruined all my self-satisfaction.

He said, "Thank you."

I was suddenly struck with a horrifying epiphany. The reason Dave kept to himself wasn't because of his personality, it was because of his geography. The mall was on the outskirts of the still all-white neighborhood in which I lived, so even though people his color came regularly to shop at the mall, he was fully aware that he was still outnumbered and unwanted. Looking back on this, it was incredibly brave of him, given the time and place, to even submit an application. I can't think of one white kid who would have done the same in an all-black neighborhood. In that instant, all of the comments, all of the behaviors, I encountered over years culminated into this single moment, and I saw the world differently for the first time. There wasn't black and white. There weren't good ones and bad ones. There were just people. People who wanted to live normal lives like everyone else, but were at times scared to death by the inescapable clamps of racism. Dave was as big as any two of them, and could have knocked them senseless with exerting very little effort, but because of where he was in space and time, he was unable to stand up for himself. He needed the help of a skinny white kid with a  big mouth, and that made me feel sick inside.

That was over thirty years ago, and I've never forgotten it. I wonder how many other Daves there are in the world ~ nice normal people who are weighed down by fear, and the invisible anchor of a diseased and antiquated dogma. I thought we had progressed beyond that point in these subsequent years. Perhaps I was too hopeful, or gullible, but I actually believed that, at the very least, the success of "The Cosby Show", Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, and other African Americans in the mainstream of America might relax some old prejudices and open even more eyes, but the truth is, it was always there, boiling just below the surface like a toxic oil, bubbling up from the ground occasionally, but usually plugged up in time to make any real mess.

Pardon the cliche, but 9/11 changed all that. After we were attacked, a group of powerful people realized that they could advance their own personal agendas as long as they continued exploiting our fear. Initially, they preyed upon our collective fear of being attacked again, but it soon morphed into a fear of "others". People who weren't like "us". Once that sentiment was allowed to grow, the earth opened up and all of that lingering racism exploded, finally climaxing with the extremism of the Tea Party.

So this is where we are, in an America where racism is once again the accepted norm. A place where people openly ridicule our President's skin color, a land where chairs representing Obama are hung from trees. A country where influential people claim he was not born in America and demand to see his birth certificate. (John McCain was born in the Panama Canal, but I don't remember one Democrat of any color making an equal fuss.) The most powerful country in the world, but one where a chunk of society is willing to pretend they believe the lies of the rich, white, male candidate simply so they can vote the black male candidate out of office.

Right now, the country is similar to a relapsing alcoholic ~ sober for a long time, but now binge drinking with no intention to stop. So, where do we go from here? The good news is that I don't believe it's entirely hopeless, but we are in desperate need of an intervention. We need leaders, people of authority to step in show us our disgusting behavior. Not leaders like politicians and celebrities, but community leaders, people we know personally who have actual influence over our lives. It needs to start small. Do not look the other way when someone you know behaves inappropriately. Show them how they are wrong. Humanize the issue. How would they like it if they, or someone they loved, were treated in the same manner? And if they once were, then they should know better than to repeat the cycle of hate. It will take more than just seeing the problem, the offenders will need to establish better habits. It's one thing to accept the problem, you have to want to repair it. Since it's our collective problem as a country, are were willing to take it on?

It's not easy. There's a lot to be fixed, and that's what has me worried. For better or worse, we all have to live together for the duration. Why live in hate and fear? If you say you are a Christian, then act like it. If you say you are a patriotic American, then act like that. But whatever you do, do not pretend it doesn't exist and look the other way, because eventually, the other way will circle around back to you.

Apathy kills. Take a stand, for yourself and everyone else.

Thank you.

(Edited and reposted from my blog site ~ "Did Anybody See Where I Put My Blog"

Originally posted to Patrick Egan on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 11:12 PM PST.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges, Black Kos community, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Chitown was the most socially segregated city (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jasel, jlms qkw, Chitown Kev, Nulwee

    I've lived in and this was early 00's.

    "It strikes me as gruesome and comical that in our culture we have an expectation that a man can always solve his problems" - Kurt Vonnegut

    by jazzence on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 11:23:10 PM PST

  •  Great diary (5+ / 0-)

    Introspection has served you well.

    Talking openly and honestly, while maintaining the respect this sensitive subject deserves, seems to me to be a step in the right direction.

    -
    Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
    ~ Jerry Garcia

    by DeadHead on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 11:33:16 PM PST

  •  Howard Zinn answers your question in Chapter 2. (3+ / 0-)

    He describes how hatred towards the imported slaves had to be manufactured and institutionalized during Colonial times as a means of social control. It also worked to expand into Native Peoples land, so that the invaders did not feel remorse while slaughtering them and stealing their land. So, the race situation in the USA is a uniquely self-perpetuating horror.

    I voted with my feet. Good Bye and Good Luck America!!

    by shann on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:08:32 AM PST

    •  There's nothing "unique" about the tactics (4+ / 0-)

      You describe. That sort of thing is standard operating procedure for the persecution of ethnic groups around the world since forever.

      It's by no means an original product of the United States.

      Unless I'm misunderstanding your comment.

      -
      Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
      ~ Jerry Garcia

      by DeadHead on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 02:24:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My reading of his book is that the European (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        svboston, DeadHead

        explorers and the colonists were in a class by themselves for developing racist social controls before the 20th century. For example, Africa had a substantially less horrific slavery than the European slave trade; theirs was more like indentured servitude. Additionally, the Europeans brought their sexism to more egalitarian civilizations both in the Americas and Africa.

        Maybe I am misreading his intent here and the Europeans were no worse than anyone else.

        I voted with my feet. Good Bye and Good Luck America!!

        by shann on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 07:39:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  This often seems to be Zinn's thing (4+ / 0-)

          As great as he is in many ways, everything is always ten times worse when done by a white person and worse still when done by an American. So, you're probably both right: there's nothing new about these tactics and Zinn describes them as horrifyingly unique.

          •  That makes sense (3+ / 0-)

            I haven't read the book in question, so your elaborating on the original comment helps.

            So you are correct that we were both correct.

            I love it when everyone is right! :-D

            -
            Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
            ~ Jerry Garcia

            by DeadHead on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 11:20:08 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Sometimes I see that as a sort of variation (5+ / 0-)

            on American exceptionalism. In people I know personally it seems to spring from having grown up with the belief that the United States is a uniquely wonderful country. When they grow up and find out that it's as imperfect as every other country, they somehow feel betrayed. Then the United States and Americans suddenly turn into the most mythically nightmarish country in the world.

            I actually grew up in a fairly leftward leaning environment and was raised being told how awful the United States was. It surprised me when I grew up and found racism and, more commonly, anti-Semitism among supposedly more enlightened people.

          •  the european colonialization (0+ / 0-)

            of the Americas, North Africa, India, and entry into China, and eventually Australia...has been pretty extensive, although I agree with you that anyone is capable of being horrible, and all cultures and peoples throughout history have undoubtedly done something xenophobic and tribal and fucked up. But it kinda goes to scale and impact, and the current balance of economic power.

            •  Also... (2+ / 0-)

              ....we read the expansion of other peoples' countries in the past through their official sources, which rarely even try to represent opposing viewpoints fairly. It isn't only Europeans who write history from their own perspective. Every large country rolled over its neighbours and incorporated them by force, or it wouldn't be large. Take Japan, for example. People usually think of it as a monocultural society, but it's a creation of violent conquest just as much as the United States is. The last full-scale battle between Japanese indigenous people and Imperial forces in Honshu, the main island, was around 1560, the final episode of a war that had gone on for over five hundred years. Or take all the independent states and cultures that used to exist where China is now. All we know of them is what Chinese historians chose to record, which rarely reflects poorly on the Imperial throne. For a few early ones, the only name we have for them is a Chinese ethnic insult.

              It might be better to say that we weren't the first to do this; we were the first to get caught. And after all, getting caught is the first step towards reform.

              "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

              by sagesource on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:48:37 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I had a friend whose sister was a lawyer working (0+ / 0-)

                on the subject of indigenous rights in Taiwan. He compared their situation to that of Native Americans. Most people don't even realize that there was an indigenous group living there before the island was colonized by mainland Chinese starting in the seventeenth century.

                The mother of a very close friend of mine came from an indigenous group in Malaysia. If you want to read about a country which has complicated racial tensions, that's really worth looking up.

                Just to be clear, I'm not saying this in any way, shape or form to minimize what has happened in the United States.

          •  I've heard some controversy on that (0+ / 0-)

            Also, I remember talking to my History of Latin America professor when we were talking about slavery in Latin America. I'd read some accounts that said that while slavery there was no picnic, it was not so racialized as it was in the US and wasn't as dehumanizing. It was merely viewed as an unfortunate (but necessary) thing that could happen to anyone. She pointed out that the people who most encouraged this contrast were Latin American elites.

        •  Read a history of Ireland if you want to see the (3+ / 0-)

          same type of dynamic in action -- the Anglo-Normans, then the English, and then the Protestants justified the gradual immiseration of the Irish over centuries by saying, essentially, that they were less than human.  For example, although Shakespeare's Caliban is usually portrayed today as black, there's much better evidence that he was originally intended to represent the Irish.  (E.g., his skin is described as "freckled" and his mother as "blue-eyed.).  But it's not like the English have had a monopoly on degrading other nations or races in their minds into subhumans. The dehumanization of a exploited class in the minds of the exploiters is a universal rationalization for the exploitation.  

          •  One need not even travel (0+ / 0-)

            Farther back than the 20th century to find a case study in this behavior:

            NSDAP, anyone?

            Tragic, how many examples there are.

            -
            Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
            ~ Jerry Garcia

            by DeadHead on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 11:50:34 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  I'm hesitant to buy into Zinn (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FourthOfJulyAsburyPark

          Simply because he often falls back on the "noble savage," mythology too much. Even when pointing out the horrible atrocities of the "egalitarian," civilizations he will try to dismiss them as "childlike innocence," treating these people as if they were children.

          Zinn, while right in some areas was very apt to source mine when it comes to the nature of European, American and African civilizations and jump to some bold conclusions.

      •  It's not unique, but racial division and the sense (0+ / 0-)

        of black inferiority really was actively manufactured and institutionalized by high status whites in what became the US, particularly in the South.

        I remember reading a letter from one planter to another -- and I sure wish I had the citation.  He was saying that you had to be careful if you had indentured servants from Europe, because they didn't have the "natural aversion" to mixing with African slaves, so you had to instruct them (particularly women) as to what was proper.

        It was sobering indeed to see it laid out so clearly in all its calm, horrible illogic.  Separation of the races is "natural," so you have to teach it to people not raised here where we know that.

        I know very well that the planters were pursuing their economic self-interest.  But they were also triggering both in themselves and in others a widespread capacity of the human mind.  It's the capacity to fixate on some difference, and make it so defining that it becomes a wall of separation, and those on the other side of the wall are not even human, and can be horribly abused without remorse.

        The fact that what was done here has been done many other times -- is done almost routinely in wars -- doesn't make it any less terrible.

        --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

        by Fiona West on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 06:59:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for sharing your experiences. It helps (7+ / 0-)

    to know that we are not alone.

    When i was in 8th grade (1964 middle school) I became friends with a small black student I'll call Keith. His clothes and especially his shoes were always tattered at best, but he always had a smile for me. The other students (white) would throw pennies in front of him at lunch to see him pick them up and then deride him.

    I noticed he never ate lunch, and then i made the connection: he had no lunch and no money to buy one. From that day forward I shared my lunch with Keith every day. I was, at that early age, determined to make sure he had at least one filling and nourishing meal five days a week. I took some heat for my actions, but never caved as Keith was more important to me than public opinion.

    It is nothing more than caring about our fellow human beings.

  •  Outstanding. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DeadHead, TomP, Patrick Egan

    I'm from Chicago too (in case you couldn't tell from my user name). I grew up in the suburbs, so didn't see this sort of behavior until I moved into the city in 1980.

    Sad to say, it still exists. If only more people were like you and Dave.

  •  more optimistic (7+ / 0-)

    because demographics are shifting, and in another 50 years, there will only be two angry old white men sitting in a room bitching about how all them foreigners should learn to speak English. Everyone else will be the spouse, parent, child, or extended family member of someone who is "not white" and suddenly in the majority. So says my crystal ball.

    Much has changed over the last 50 years. The biggest "whiteness" problem, in my opinion, is the inability to recognize that the white perspective is not the only perspective. There is a reflexive belief that "whiteness" defines what it means to be a legitimate person, respected, seen, taken seriously, etc. in this society, and that anyone else is somehow less real or relevant, and that "white" people should get to decide who to allow in or out.

    Introspection can be helpful, but in the final analysis it matters not so much what is in one's heart, but whether one is willing - despite any unsavory thoughts or emotions that might come up - to relinquish one's belief in the centrality of one's position, make room for other voices, step aside and let someone else be the main character in the story.

    Popular culture does influence public attitudes. It is rare, although not inconceivable, to see a TV show with a main character who is "not white" (but usually surrounded by white people). More common is the "side-kick" character, or the random extra who gets killed off in the first reel. I think it is very revealing that an Academy-Award winning, big name African American actor can perform brilliantly in so many incredible roles, but ultimately be acknowledged for playing the part of a slave in one movie and a drug dealer in the next. What the fuck? But that is just one minor example of a much more pervasive phenomenon.

    It's obviously not just a white/black thing, but includes all other so-called minorities (or soon-to-be majority). This thing, as I see it, can really go in only one direction. It will happen / is happening. Which is not to say that people are not assholes on a regular basis. I get some sort of bigoted crap any time I step outside of my own group's domain, and it is frightening, and I know to expect it, prepare myself by altering the way I dress, or to just not go there when I can avoid it. Takes a lot mental energy to wade through.

    The history of exploitation (the creation of an underclass through slavery) requires the perpetrators of such violence to dehumanize their victims and label them as less real than themselves - otherwise they couldn't do it. What you describe sounds like the vestiges of that mental orientation.

  •  Thank you for sharing your story. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DeadHead, Fiona West

    I'm glad Barack Obama is our President.

    by TomP on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 11:38:12 AM PST

  •  I have some of my own notions about why racism (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DeadHead, Rich N Mdriems

    seems to have become more prevalent lately and I ran them by my sister and she didn't think they were too crazy, so maybe I'll offer them up here. It's just my own sepculation without a whole lot to back it up.

    First, I should probably say that I've read that conservatives see people as being inherently bad and liberals see people as being inherently good. I don't know how true that is, but I would modify that by saying that I see people as wanting to be good but also being weak, in a sense. You describe how you learned to be racist as a child. I think you describe that well. There are literally tons of things that we don't learn in school and you name a few of them. This is natural. None of us could learn in a single lifetime everything we need to know to function. We rely on second hand experience in a myriad of forms, some good and some not so good. And some are good for some things and not others. Perhaps my grandmother's view of a healthy diet was good despite the fact that she was hardly a nutritionist (it was healthy, btw) but her views on Jews were not so good. (My best friend from before kindergarten was Jewish, so I pretty much ignored my grandmother on that subject and my grandfather disagreed with my grandmother anyway.)

    One thing we don't learn in school is the social norms in our society. Casual racist comments became something that people didn't say even if they believed them. Does this actually reduce racism in reality? My own hunch is that is slowly does because children are less likely to encounter it.

    So for a time, we entered a sort of virtuous circle. People who were tempted to say racist things knew that they would have a conflict with the "pc police." Consequently, they spoke up less frequently. This lead to casual racist comments becoming less common and consequently less normal. This led to even more uncomfortable conflits when someone did say something racist.

    What happened, as far as I can see, is that when Obama became president, the racists suddenly had a motivation to speak up whether or not they got pushback. The more they spoke up, the more "normal" it became and the more comfortable other people feel saying racist things. In effect, the virtuous circle has been reversed.

    Will this lead to more actual racism, or only racism that is less closeted? I don't know.

    •  ? (0+ / 0-)

      Is this neighborhood call Austin?  

    •  This is interesting (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FourthOfJulyAsburyPark

      because as a conservative I've always heard/read that conservatives believe that people are inherently good and able to fend for themselves while liberals see people as inherently bad and unable to fend for themselves and need government to tell them how to live and to provide them with an existence.

    •  Agree. Have to disagree with diarist... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FourthOfJulyAsburyPark, cacamp

      ...although it was a very thoughtful and introspective diary, I would not agree at all that 9/11 did something to change the racial climate that existed within the country.  The same vitriol was always present but it had become increasingly unacceptable for it to raise its head in modern society.  The election of President Obama brought the realization that a majority of Americans were willing to elect a black president.  So what we've seen since 2008 was the expected backlash of racism as it sees itself further and further marginalized in this country.  You act out when you're desperate.  

      If you want the pulse of what people really think when they feel free to express themselves, take a stroll over to ANY yahoo comment section for ANY story involving someone of color.  Then go wash up.

      It will be here for decades, maybe longer, but we can continue to lock it back in its cage and slowly starve it off.  It's all we can do.  You can't change certain minds, you can only try to wall them off from greater society.

      Mitt's foreign policy: Double Guantanamo, with cheese.

      by Rich N Mdriems on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 02:09:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Have you noticed that the racism in recent years (0+ / 0-)

        seems to be less casual and crazier, or is that just my perception?

        •  Yes (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FourthOfJulyAsburyPark

          When they didn't feel threatened, they could afford to keep quiet because things were generally going their way.  The election of Obama forced their hands.

          2008 didn't improve much for the average, everyday person (white or black) regarding race.  There was no less racial discrimination, no less racial profiling, no less hatred.  In short, nobody should've been under any illusions that we were suddenly evolved like some post-racial sci-fi movie.  There was only the marker that the majority of the country could envision a day we got past all this crap.

          Mitt's foreign policy: Double Guantanamo, with cheese.

          by Rich N Mdriems on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 02:48:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

        that racism never disappeared, but based on my experience, it subsided a great deal in the intervening years. The previously loudmouthed bigots, for whatever reasons, seemed to tone down their opinions when out in public.
        But after 9/11, it seemed acceptable to once again be as vocal as you wanted, and there were few very repercussions. It started with announcing your hatred toward Muslims, then Middle Easterners in general, and after a while, moved back to all brown skinned people.

  •  One puzzle has been.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mffarrow, Patrick Egan

    ....how much of the hatred for Obama has been racially motivated.

    On the one hand, the racism of the Tea Party and Republicans in general is blatant and undeniable.

    On the other, does anyone seriously think that if Obama had been a white man, these two groups would have fallen in love with him?

    I think we have to remember the concept of overdetermination. Sometimes things happen for several reasons, each one of which would be powerful enough to cause the effect on its own. The Reich wing is always going to loathe a Democratic president as a threat to their way of life. This is in itself a sufficient reason for them to hate him or her. They will then, naturally, call on all the other sources of hate that come naturally to them: racism in the case of Obama, but it would have been sexism if it had been Hillary, antisemitism if the nominee had been Jewish, and so on and so forth. The racist/sexist/-ist hatred is real and violent, but if it were magically taken away, this type of person will still hate simply because the candidate is a Democrat.

    "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

    by sagesource on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:57:02 PM PST

    •  It's all from the same source, I think (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Patrick Egan, Fiona West

      Fear and hatred of the other. And Republicans have stoked this fear to encourage people to vote against their economic interests.

      •  Exactly. Fear is the core emotion of (0+ / 0-)

        an authoritarian follower, which many of the right wing are.  And the Republicans have stoked their fear for decades, to maintain a fired-up base who will keep them in power and serve the interests of the banksters who fund and dominate the GOP.

        Fear of scary brown people, fear of tradition-destroying gay people, fear of Muslims -- it's all useful.  But racism has an especially deep hold on America, and only yields an inch at a time, and slowly.  

        Nonetheless, I do feel that it's grip is lessening.  Those still clinging to their fear and bigotry may be getting shriller in the T-Party and the yahoo comment sections, but they're slipping when they reach for more substantive power -- even with all the SuperPACS lining up behind them.

        We have a lot of work to do in eroding racism; but I do believe that's the path we're on.

        --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

        by Fiona West on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 07:37:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  IMHO the secession talk in Texas and other (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FourthOfJulyAsburyPark

    southern states is directly related to race. The codewords flying around are really just covers for racism. Which is why I think that this cartoon from Philly News is apropo. I do understand that there are millions of good, decent people in those states and they may be upset to see this, so apologies in advance. Is there some other way to get the more vile people out of the US?

    Let 'em

    If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849

    by shigeru on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 01:27:06 PM PST

  •  Did you grow up on the Southwest side? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Patrick Egan, cacamp

    Was the theater at Ford City mall?

    As a black kid, we knew better than to get off the #79 bus before it got to that mall. Inside the mall was safe, neutral (although moderately racist) territory. A white girl employed at the Orange Julius sloshed the drink onto my hand and then laughed about it with her friends as I tried to clean it up-- I never patronized the place again.

    The surrounding neighborhoods were even more scary. A white kid of about 7-8 called me a racial slur and threw rocks at me as I walked past his house on my way to the mall. I was about 16.

    Ahh, Chicago memories.

    Non-profit single payer health care. Next question?

    by terran on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 01:38:56 PM PST

    •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

      It was Ford City mall.
      I lived in the area adjacent to the mall, just east of Pulaski.
      It was pretty nasty there, and I'd like to say it's no longer like that, but the truth is all of those same people who lived there back then simply moved south to the suburbs, so much of the same hostility exists.
      How long ago was your incident?

    •  Thanks for adding your experiences. (0+ / 0-)

      It's so sad that in the US it remains so risky to venture out of "your" territory.

      --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

      by Fiona West on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 07:50:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As one of "The Blacks" (5+ / 0-)

    I can tell you that there has never been such a thing as a "post-racial" or "color-blind" society. None of the invective directed towards Obama has been a surprise to me, and none of it is new or even a direct reaction to Obama's presidency. I doubt that racists are more emboldened or more vocal now than they were 10, 15, 20 yrs ago. They just get more scrutiny from the (white) mainstream because the POTUS is a black man. I promise you the kinds of people you read about who embrace lynching symbology and use the n-word have been doing it all along, PC police be damned. I think this:

    The biggest "whiteness" problem, in my opinion, is the inability to recognize that the white perspective is not the only perspective.
    is exactly right. From your perspective, the racial problem might seem to be getting worse, because your everyday exposure to it has increased. From my perspective, the racial problem is getting better, because racist ideology is becoming easier to circumvent.
    •  remember the few weeks after Obama was elected? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fiona West, mffarrow

      Dkos went through a bunch of "post racial" diaries and comments. Some of us in the minority community here tried to warn them of what was coming to no avail. It didn't take long for that to stop though as the racist cartoons began to appear and dog whistles were heard from arond the nation.

      Then the Tea Party...

      America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

      by cacamp on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 06:49:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm glad to hear you say this: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mffarrow
      From my perspective, the racial problem is getting better, because racist ideology is becoming easier to circumvent.
      Could you say some more about what you mean?

      --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

      by Fiona West on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 07:56:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sure (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Fiona West

        I mean that racism isn't as entrenched in institutions as in the past, and that minorities and non-racists whites are more and more able to aquire resources and positions of influence. Minorities have access to education, higher paying jobs, government positions, etc., and are able to influence minds and society as a whole.

        At the same time, racist attitudes have less sway over the lives that minorities can lead. People who hate me because if my skin color are MUCH less able to prevent me from leading a good life, for which I am very grateful. I can read, vote, run for office, go to college, start a business, etc. Obama is a product of that. It's not so much that his presidency means that America has solved its racial problems. More that the racial problems of America no longer were able to prevent someone like him from reaching his potential. And I believe  that trend will continue.

  •  very good diary... but a quibble... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    betson08, Fiona West, mffarrow

    You seem to think there was a hiatus on racism for a while, I don't think there was at all. I think you personally stopped paying attention for awhile but to we in the minority community racism remain virulent and ever present.

    Pardon the cliche, but 9/11 changed all that. After we were attacked, a group of powerful people realized that they could advance their own personal agendas as long as they continued exploiting our fear. Initially, they preyed upon our collective fear of being attacked again, but it soon morphed into a fear of "others". People who weren't like "us". Once that sentiment was allowed to grow, the earth opened up and all of that lingering racism exploded, finally climaxing with the extremism of the Tea Party
    .
    Right now, the country is similar to a relapsing alcoholic ~ sober for a long time, but now binge drinking with no intention to stop.
    Nixons "southern strategy" never stopped and the racism it engendered in white people never abated. The GOP has survived because they openly used racism as their reason to exist and married racists with banksters to create the frankenparty they now remain.

    But thanks for a well written diary. You've hit the nail on the head.

    America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

    by cacamp on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 06:37:08 PM PST

  •  Thank you for posting this diary, btw (0+ / 0-)

    Well written and raises a lot of good points.

  •  I'm a little late posting here, but ... (0+ / 0-)

    I was in my teens in the '70s, so I'm a little older than you, I guess. I witnessed a lot of the same things kinds of things you did, watched things seem to get better and whites get more accepting of blacks, thought hopefully that the climate in the U.S., at least all but the Deep South, had changed for good.

    But in my own personal observations, things changed for the worse when Morton Downey Jr. started the trend of "trash talk," saying things that had been considered unacceptable. My brother was really into watching him, so I saw more of it than I cared to, and Downey paved the way for Rush Limbaugh to follow. I think the fact that they made a joke out of things being "PC," when in reality "PC" was simple human kindness, was the beginning of the change of mindset that it was OK to make fun of groups that are different (the "n" word, retards, etc.), and not only OK, but funny and cool. It's been going downhill ever since.

    •  After reading some of the comments above (0+ / 0-)

      What I meant by watching things seem to get better ... I lived in the Northeast, in the suburbs outside of Philly. In my early teens, I remember occasionally a black family would move into a housing development, and the white adults who lived in surrounding houses would be upset about it. I heard some of my friends' parents and their neighbors talking about property values going down and other concerns based on stereotypes.

      But several years later, that attitude had changed and black and white families were living together in these neighborhoods, and I didn't witness the kind of talk among my parents' generation that I had earlier. My friends and I were friends with all the kids our age in these neighborhoods, regardless of race, and had been appalled by the things our parents had been saying earlier. We thought things had finally changed.

      But that was only in my one small corner of the world, and not long after, like I said, Morton Downey Jr. started with the trash talk in the 1980s, followed by Limbaugh, and my brother and his friends went down that road, thinking it was hysterical to say un-PC things that were offensive against ethnic and other different groups. So it didn't last long.

  •  Silence is consent (0+ / 0-)

    Thank you for speaking out.

    This is how things change.

    One person.

    Each person.

    Taking action.


    The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. - Pangolin@kunstler.com

    by No one gets out alive on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 07:28:04 AM PST

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