Thursday, March 20, 2008


Note to self: Just because New York Times commentators are reading the New York Times does not make them necessarily the brightest tool in the shed. I say this mostly because while stumbling around the site this morning (honestly, people say Wikipedia is hard to extract yourself from, but every time I click on one article on the Times I have to click on at least two more) I came across this blog post from Nicholas Kristof, whose political leanings are kind of obscure to me but who sometimes I end up reading just because. And then I read the comments and then I got really angry. I know it's silly and pointless to get angry about dumb people in America or the world, but sometimes I can't help but get steamed when people entirely miss the point. The second comment on this post made me want to shake the person who wrote it. It's so obviously what Obama talked about in his speech that I couldn't really handle the fact that this person missed the point, and it's also so damn smug.

Luckily there were some better comments out there. Still, this is why politicians rarely talk as openly and candidly about issues like this as Obama did on Tuesday, and this is why I could never be a politician -- I take these minor instances of single people missing the point and misinterpreting far too seriously.

I think the overall point that is really bothering me is this idea that because he happens to be extreme, that we should disregard Wright at all costs without inquiring as to how he became extreme. That is part of Obama's point and it's all over the liberal Internet. On "The Root," which has been/is called "the black Slate," I came across this piece:

Two thirds of whites believe that blacks have achieved or will soon achieve racial equality. Nearly eighty percent of blacks believe that racial justice for blacks will not be achieved either in their lifetime or at all in the U.S.

Ok, so these are self-reported, and so it doesn't mean that there is no racial justice or equality, or that we are actually in a dire strait like this. But it matters that people think this way. It matters that black people in the U.S. feel left out. It matters that white America is completely up and arms about one man's comments, and yet men like Jerry Falwell have been around for EVER spouting terrible shit all the time. To quote another NY Times commentator: "most white Americans have no clue about the common nature of discourse in a variety of African American communities... [Emily's note: No shit.] To some degree this isn’t out of willful ignorance; it is simply the luxury of the majority. White communities do not have to understand black communities or realities in order to survive and prosper (or at least have not had to up to now; it is arguable that in our current world even white communities have to become more conversant in other racial/ethnic/religious/national realities simply to survive). By contrast, black communities have had to understand white communities in order to survive in a society dominated by white privilege." These feelings matter, because those feelings contribute to actions and behavior and voting and law and grand concepts like freedom and equality. And I believe that we need to ask why these feelings exist, and how we can work to assuage and soothe them, across the board, across racial and religious divides. Anyway, as a pretty privileged white girl with no real academic knowledge of racial issues, I am probably putting my foot in my mouth here, but I still feel a pretty gut instinct wrongness about a lot of this ongoing dialogue, and it makes me sad.

In other news, people in the U.S. think racism is a bigger problem than sexism. I think had I answered the poll, I would have said they were both equal problems, but I would have been tempted to put my notch on the sexism side. Just so you know.

I suddenly have this urge to go watch the West Wing and cocoon myself in a comfortable, fictional political world instead of this real one, which is a mess.

1 comment:

Scott Henderson said...

It just so happens I'm in the midst of reliving the fuzzy political idealism of West Wing (halfway through S2). If only it really was like this...