Sunday, January 06, 2008

Obama and My Family Racism

It's always been a painful fact of life, but a lot of people in my family are racists. To give one small example, my family was not allowed to watch the ground-breaking show "Julia" because of Diahann Carroll's starring role. I was fourteen at the time and my father was making a determined effort to shove his racism down my throat as a way to "make a man out of me." He also let me know how disgusted he was with rock n roll as "nigger music" and how disturbed he was when I invited a black friend over to swim in the family pool. The main impact of my father's racism was to increase my disgust with him. But it really hurt that my much-loved grandfather "Pop" never talked with one of my cousins again after she married a black guy. I think a couple of my brothers and sisters became racists and anti-Semites as well.

The racism in my family has already cost the Democrats one vote if Barack Obama gets the Democratic nomination for the presidency. My mother told me last night that she wouldn't vote for Obama because she didn't want to see "a black" become president. I'm writing this because I imagine that there are going to be a fair number of these painful conversations around the country as Obama's campaign develops further momentum. But the pain is particularly sharp when the racism comes from someone you know and care about as much as I care about my mother.

My reaction. I think I told her that she was being prejudiced and then kind of let it go when she got fired up to affirm that she is a racist. I was too sad and depressed to do anything else. I'm supporting Hillary at this point for reasons I've explained many times in this blog. But if Obama wins the nomination, I'll do more for his campaign than I'd do otherwise. It's important that people like my mom actually see a black person in the White House just like it was important for her to see black people on television.


Alex said...

Sad but so often the case with many people -- racism, sexism and religious bigotry. Look at many male's opinion of Hillary as president. Many men don't want a "bitchy woman" like Hillary in the White House. The many excuses for negativism are always strong in political campaigns. The excuses against Obama don't always come out at face value that the real reason is because he is black. Racists don't want to always admit their bias so they use excuses like Obama once used cocaine so he is also tainted by drug use. Obama was a smoker, so of course how can he really address health care? The whole Indonesia thing in his youth and trying to connect him to Islam would create a "NO" for many when they really don't like him because he is black. Many racists that don't like him because he is black have never heard Obama speak or have stopped to consider what he is running on, which, of course would be "much too liberal" for the conservative racists and too iffy for many of the so-called liberal racists. What happened in Iowa is that the people that actually got to know Obama really liked him and he won. I'll bet some of the good ol' racists in Iowa softened a bit when they actually met and heard Obama even if they would never vote for him. Racism and sexism are the bedrock of the polls that have indicated that Obama will never be president and Hillary has an uphill chance. Having said this, the republicans aren't putting up much of an option so maybe the pre-set polling data could be busted this time. Let's continue to watch and see what happens with the republicans. Think about it, a Mormon for president? Won't happen for the same pre-set polling data. A conservative Southern Christian like Huckabee, well Bush jr. ran on that ticket and won even if he wasn't what some people thought he was. This is going to be an interesting lesson in American political culture. So, would where would the racists place their vote? Are they more in the Huckabee camp or in the Obama camp? (The two winners in Iowa)

Anonymous said...

After all Bill was our first "Black President" then where does Hillary come down on with the black vote? The racists won't be voting on the Democrat ticket for a while.

Anonymous said...

How about a nice rich southern white boy like Johnny (Edwards)? ...Ok, not! Those confederate flag wavering racists of the south are losing their options for president. I'll bet a lot of people in the south are opening their closet doors and casting admiring gazes on their David Duke photo with nostalgic feelings of the good old days. The northern racists are secretly organizing for Romney knowing that Mormons view of blacks haven't always been, let's just say, equal. What a political campaign. I think it will just get better before its over!

jeannie said...

I can relate to your family situation. I love my father dearly but he is racist, which I attribute to him being raised in Southern WVA and his age of 67. I guess he was raised in different times, but I wish I could come up with a better excuse for his racism. He swears he's not racist, but uses the word "nigger" freely and easily. His irrational anger at Obama's Iowa win was very disturbing for me to witness, all the while he protests it's not because Obama's black. My father takes issue with Obama's referencing Selma, which my father attributes his resentment for Obama. But I can see the Hate in his eyes and hear it in his voice. This lone statement about Selma by Obama should not be enough to invoke such a fierce response.

However, I'm afraid that there are many others like my Dad who will NEVER vote for a black man. I try to persuade, but I just can't break through.

S Bartley said...

Hi Dr. Caric,

I can definitely relate to your thoughts here.

I have often thought that an Obama presidency might be the best thing for my family to see, and in particular my dad. For all my life I've hoped that my dad would let go of his racist feelings before he leaves this earth.

And fortunately, it seems that as he ages, he's getting more open-minded. I'm not sure if that's common; perhaps it is due to more exposure to the world outside eastern Ky.

Anyway, he has said a lot of very positive things about Obama... but I'm still trying to interpret his sentiments. I don't know if he praises Obama because he is less racist or if he is praising him as an exception to his poor perception of African Americans.

I've always been torn between feelings of pride in the fact that he worked as a coal miner for almost 30 years and disappointment in the fact that he is apart of a very racist generation of eastern Ky workers.

In the end, I hope either a Clinton or Obama presidency can heal the hearts of a lot of our families.

Steve Bartley

Ric Caric said...

I appreciate the comments on this post. It's a difficult issue.